ALBANY — Repeat offenders are wreaking havoc in New York City and elsewhere — but Democrats maintain a lack of good statistics is obscuring any clear analysis of their criminal justice reforms nearly four years in.
And that, they claimed at a hearing Monday, makes it impossible to scale back any of their reforms, which have been criticized as soft on crime.
“There are troubling gaps that sometimes make it difficult to get an accurate picture of what is happening in the criminal justice system,” NYPD Chief of Department Jeff Maddrey told state lawmakers.
“Analyzing crime data is a complex topic, but I think we can all agree that the more data that we have, the better off that we are,” he added.
Adding to the Catch-22 nature of it all, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) scheduled the hearing after repeatedly saying they will only support changes that are backed by solid data.
Such problems are hampering efforts to scale back a range of reforms championed by left-leaning Albany Democrats in recent years like controversial cash bail limits and increased discovery requirements that even liberal prosecutors like Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg credit with increasing the number of dismissed cases from 48% to 74% for misdemeanor cases, and 21% to 35% for felonies, in New York City.
“A full three years after bail reform turned New York’s criminal justice system on its head, we still have a need for crime data to be more complete. That was painfully obvious after today’s hearing,” Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Fulton) said.
The Monday hearing comes just days before Gov. Kathy Hochul is scheduled to unveil a proposed state budget that could include potential changes to current laws blamed for fueling rising crime.
Some Republicans expressed exasperation Monday over how the hearing highlighted such a standard was so hard to meet nearly four years after many changes were first approved by the Democratic-dominated state Senate and Assembly.
“It is 2023. How do we not know what the reason for dismissal is and how was it not accounted for in the paperwork in the actual data?” Assemblyman Michael Tannousis (R-Brooklyn-Staten Island) told The Post.
“These are the type of things that need to be looked at tremendously. If we’re going to rely on [data] to decide whether we’re going to make changes to policy, then they need to be complete.”
This also wasn’t the first time state officials have confronted this problem regarding data collection.
Last year, court workers had to go back and collect data from 2019 after The Post pointed out the state failed to get baseline data from before the reforms to see if the changes had any effect.
Republican legislators also highlighted how recidivism statistics only count the number of people charged with another crime – rather than the total number of alleged offenses – which could downplay their disproportionate role of a relatively small group of people in driving surging crime.
“Unfortunately, the data is comprehensive but incomplete. We are missing information regarding uncharged cases, Family Court caseloads and details regarding re-arrested offenders,” state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-Suffolk) told The Post.
“Sadly, despite the huge increases in crime that we have seen in 2022, I’m afraid the progressives will conflate the statistics to argue their policies are not responsible, however, we are in a crime crisis and 93% of New Yorkers agree with me.”
The supposed number of crimes outside New York City might also be artificially low given how the state only collects stats once people are fingerprinted, potentially leaving out suspects who are issued so-called Desk Appearance Tickets and hen never show up back to court.
A range of offenses involving people under 18 years old – from shootings to minor offenses – are also not included in state numbers per the so-called Raise the Age law that diverts many such cases to Family Court.
“Transferring a case to Family Court generally leads to the defendant being returned to the very community that led them down that path to begin with,” Tony Jordan, president of the District Attorneys Association of New York State, said at the hearing.
A lack of good data appeared at the hearing to be a plank that the Democrats controlling Albany’s legislature are willing to stand on to prevent any change to the cashless bail and discovery arguments.
“We have made data-driven purposeful changes to our justice system. These changes have been thoughtful via the utilization of legislative hearings such as this,” Senate Codes Committee Chair Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) said at the hearing. “We take great pride in making data-driven decisions – not decisions based upon conjecture or sensationalism – data-driven decisions.”
Said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn): “I’m having a little bit of time sort of reconciling this sort of the houses on fire, feeling about retail crime across our city … we saw you want us to change the law based on 1,700 people when they’re 20 million people here in the state of New York,”
But Republicans say that while more stats are needed to get to the bottom of the relationship between reforms and rising crime, the truth is out there.
“Law enforcement professionals continue to sound the alarm and ask for Albany’s help to alleviate the crime crisis,” Barclay said.
“What we heard today is more evidence that bail reform was a terrible bill in 2019 and it isn’t improving with age.”