In his first week on the job, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg issued controversial directives instructing his office to go softer on crime. His changes mandate against prosecuting cases from resisting arrest and trespassing to fare evasion and prostitution. Bragg also ordered reduced charges for whole crime categories including knifepoint robbery, commercial and some residential burglaries, weapons possession, and “low-level” drug dealing. In New York County, there will now be a presumption of no jail time for almost any crime, and sentences of life without parole will be banned even for cop killers, barring “exceptional circumstances.”
This is especially worrying since Bragg's changes come at a time when New York City is reeling from two years of crime increases. Shooting victims citywide doubled, while car thefts rose 92%. Murders rose by half, even as “clearance” rates for murders dropped from 86% at the end of 2019 to 46% at the end of 2020. In 2021, hate crimes nearly doubled; non-rape sex crimes rose by almost a third.
Worryingly, Bragg's new policies mirror those in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco, which have seen record rises in homicides and shoplifting. But Bragg insists that offenders are less likely to commit more crimes if they avoid jail time or heavy sentencing and get diverted into drug treatment or mental-health programs. Is this supported by the data? And will the Big Apple's new law-and-order mayor Eric Adams push back against lax prosecution? Our expert panel will break down the real-life meaning of Manhattan's new prosecutorial guidelines. Jim Quinn served for 42 years with the Queens DA's office, retiring in 2020 as a lead executive and second-in-command. Tom Hogan served as DA of Chester County, PA, and is completing a criminology program at University of Pennsylvania. Manhattan Institute senior fellow and legal policy expert Rafael Mangual will moderate our discussion.