NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday that bail reform laws have cops "chasing our tail" because in some cases, the changes have resulted in known criminals getting released soon after arrest, only to commit new crimes.
In an interview on NY1, Shea bemoaned nine Memorial Day shootings that punctuated another month in which serious crimes increased over the same period last year. There are too many guns on the street, the commissioner said, and too many people willing to use them.
The surge in serious crime comes as cops continue to make arrests with the help of communities, but see suspects — some mentally ill — repeatedly arrested and quickly set free because of 2020 bail reform, Shea said.
"People who are arrested multiple, multiple, multiple, multiple times and released, mental illness is woven into this, potentially, we have to do better," said Shea. "We need help with some of these laws, we cannot be just chasing our tail, catch and release, catch and release."
Shea referenced an incident Monday in Chinatown in which a man was seen on video punching an Asian woman by an outdoor restaurant area, knocking her to the ground. The suspect in the attack had been arrested eight times in the past year for assault and setting fires, Shea said.
"What are we doing when in society when we are releasing these people right back out on to the street?," Shea asked rhetorically.
Shea didn’t say Tuesday what changes to the bail law he wanted but in the past has asked that state judges have the ability — as federal judges do—to set bail or detain people on grounds that they are dangerous to the community.
Bail reform took effect in the state in January 2020 and did away with the need for defendants in certain non-violent misdemeanor and felony cases to make bail while keeping it for violent offenses such as homicide, sex crimes and shootings. Proponents said doing away with bail would allow poorer defendants the ability to remain free while their criminal cases were pending, thereby reducing the hardship brought about by pretrial detention.
Richard Aborn, head of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said in an interview that while bail reform of last year isn’t the sole reason for the rise in violence, he thinks the law needs to be fixed, particularly to give judges the ability to consider danger posed by a suspect.
"I do think the legislature should correct some of the bail reform mistakes, it was done too fast with too little consideration," said Aborn.
The latest apparent bias attack in Chinatown referenced by Shea came as the city has seen a continuous rise in shootings, which so far this year have increased over 77% above the same period in 2020, which turned out to be the worst in the city since about 2006. Shooting victims have also increased 77% and homicides are now up 17.7% over 2020, NYPD data showed.
Shea voiced particular concern about the rise in shootings and the impact the resulting fear has on communities.
"Just having that incidence of gunfire whether anyone is hit or not, really traumatizes the whole block," explained Shea. "Then you start to think I don’t want to send my kids out to the store, or play in front of the house."