New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during a monthly...

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during a monthly crime briefing to update reporters on crime statistics on Jan. 6. Credit: Howard Simmons

New York City experienced its worst January for serious crime in five years, according to NYPD data set for release Tuesday and expected to show an ongoing spike that department officials attribute to the state's new bail reform law.

The latest Compstat data through Feb. 2, shows that total overall serious felonies — such as homicide, burglary, robbery and auto theft — are up 16.4% over the same period in 2019. The increase is 6% when compared to 2015, the data shows.

After years of steady declines in crime, the city has seen double digit increases in burglaries, grand larcenies and auto theft — the latter up 70% over 2019 — since Jan. 1. Robberies and felonious assaults saw single digit increases. A positive trend within the data shows homicides down nearly 20% since the same period last year and a decrease in rapes by 18%, according to the latest data.

In January, serious felonies citywide continued to rise throughout the month. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea is scheduled to talk about the overall upward trend Tuesday during his monthly crime briefing. He is again expected to call on the legislature in Albany to tinker with the bail law, which took effect Jan. 1. The new law eliminates bail for most nonviolent crimes.

To buttress Shea’s argument, NYPD officials are likely to include statistics showing the percentage of newly arrested suspects set free without bail despite being repeat offenders, said one official who didn’t want to be named.

Shea spoke two weeks ago with some alarm at the crime trends, which are affecting most areas of the city, particularly Queens and northern Manhattan.

“You are seeing the affects in a very quick time and that is why we are so concerned,” Shea said at the time.

Crime Category20192020% Change
Felonious assault1,5461,6778.5%
Grand larceny3,5303,90510.6%
Grand largency auto36361770.0%

Bail reform advocates have pushed back at Shea’s remarks, calling them outrageous and regressive.

“From day one, law enforcement have been intent on erasing the progress we’ve made through fear mongering that distorts the impact of the laws," said Nick Encalada-Malinowski, civil rights campaign director of the justice advocacy group Vocal-NY, in a recent statement, "threatening to take us back to a racist and unequal system that preyed upon Black, Brown and low income communities.”

Shea has said he favors bail reform — even doing away with bail altogether — but wants state judges to have the ability to set bail conditions based on a defendant’s danger to the community. Federal judges can set bail conditions but their New York State counterparts are not allowed under the new state law.

Last week, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. backed Shea and voiced his support for a change in the law to allow state judges greater flexibility to set conditions for a suspect’s release.

Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said the entire bail issue suffered from poor planning discussion at the legislative stage, along with blind political posturing. Criminals know they don’t have to fear trying to make bail, he said.

“The bad guys knows the [jail] consequences are remote from serious misconduct,” said O’Donnell. 

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