New York State Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is having second thoughts about bail reform just one month after the state’s catch and release, no-bail law went into effect. The reasons why the mayor - formerly a staunch bail bonds reform advocate - is now instituting a political course correction is because exactly what opponents of the law said would happen has happened. Bail reform opponents warned politicians in New York that they were opening a Pandora’s box that could lead to a lawless state. Mayor de Blasio disagreed; until new statistics showed they were right. Now the mayor wants changes to bail reform.

Life in New York One Month into Bail Reform

Things were going swimmingly for former presidential candidate Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo until New York’s bail reform measures came into effect on January 1. On that day the horror stories of people being arrested and released, committing more crimes and being re-arrested started almost immediately. Bail reformers said they were the exceptions. But new statistics make it clear they were and are the rule.

Shootings, burglaries, assaults, car thefts, transit crime (crimes on the subway system) incidents of domestic violence and more surged by 28.8% in January. Robbery and burglary alone are up by 36% and 21% respectively. And grand larceny is up by a whopping 72%. What do most of these crimes have in common? People who commit them are caught and released under the new bail reform law. So if you want to know why burglaries are up it’s because the guy who burglarized your neighbor’s house 2 days ago was released without bail under the new law and then returned to your neighborhood to burglarize your home.

The Education of Bill de Blasio

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea is not shy about pointing the finger of blame where it belongs. He sees a direct correlation between bail reform and the spike in crime that has greeted New Yorkers in the New Year. Said Shea “there has been a dramatic increase in crime by people who are being let out of Rikers Island (one of the largest NYC jails).”

After being enlightened regarding the new statistics Mayor de Blasio suddenly changed course. He announced he is now able to see the correlation between bail reform and an increase in crime. Though, somewhat strangely he declared it’s alright because “our police officers can handle anything that is thrown at them”. Well, that’s reassuring Bill.

But beyond stating that the police are ready to handle the surge in crime created by bail reform the mayor went a step further and declared “We have raised concerns about the current bail reform and we are now having a dialog in Albany about any changes”. That statement represents a complete reversal for the mayor who at one time accused opponents of bail reform of being ‘fear mongers’.

Aspiring to New Jersey

The mayor’s proposed solution to the sudden spike in bail reform related crime is to emulate New Jersey. By that de Blasio is referring to New Jersey’s system of preventive detention that was implemented after their own bail reform measures went off the rails. According to the mayor, adopting a Jersey-like detention system will return discretionary power to judges and help keep dangerous individuals from being released willy-nilly. The problem with that idea? It runs completely contrary to one of the central tenets of bail reform: reducing the prison population.

As was the case when reformers tried to sell their anti bail bonding agenda to the people of Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County and Denver, bail reform was sold to the residents of New Jersey largely on the notion that it would reduce prison populations. That, in theory, would save taxpayers millions of dollars. But soon after it was enacted crime began to rise dramatically, as it has done in New York.

So the New Jersey Constitution was amended in a way that allowed judges broad discretionary power to detain anyone they deemed to be a flight risk or who they determined represented a risk to public safety. The result of this is that prison populations in New Jersey are on the rise and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Bring Back the Bondsman

Mayor de Blasio is obviously aware that a year from now he’s going to have to run for re-election. The last thing he wants is to face angry voters under siege from the waves of dangerous individuals bail reform has and continues to dump on the streets. What he’d prefer is to say “I saw a problem and stepped in to fix it”. But what he doesn’t understand is that simply granting judges broad powers of detainment isn’t going to actually fix anything.

Taxpayers are going to complain they’re being saddled with the bill for all those prisoners, bail reformers are going to press Governor Cuomo to veto any such legislation and there is bound to be a tsunami of lawsuits filed by defendants who claim they are being unjustly detained. That, in turn, will create enormous stress on New York’s already overstressed judicial system.

The best, most sensible, most affordable and most just solution is to simply nullify the recent bail reform measures and go back to the previous system which, with a few kinks, worked well for centuries. That, however, seems like a long-shot. Still, it shouldn't be off the table because public safety demands something better than bail reform. And the former bail bonds system was certainly that in any measurable way.