As Mayor Adams calls for special legislative session on bail laws, new report explains why reforms are needed
NEW YORK, NY — For 27 years, from 1993 to early 2020, New York City enjoyed a steady crime decline of nearly 76 percent. But in the last two years, index crimes in New York City have risen 36.6 percent. While there are many reasons for this rise in crime, many cite New York State’s 2019 bail reform as a key trigger, with Mayor Adams calling this week for a special legislative session to address it.
In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, Jim Quinn, the former executive district attorney in the Queens DA office under Judge Richard A. Brown, offers timely scholarship the mayor could use to ground his position. He argues that the 2019 bail law has had a significantly damaging effect on public safety in the city. He offers the public a better sense of the ongoing risks of this policy shift by explaining the content of the bail reform, reviewing the changes made in the 2020 and 2022 amendments, and proposing recommendations to improve bail reform’s impact on public safety.
Quinn analyzes past issues in interpreting the data and notes that cases of recidivism are likely far higher than people have been led to believe. New York City crime data show that index crimes went up 20 percent in the first two and a half months after the bail reform took effect, increasing by double digits in the crimes for which judges could no longer set bail: burglary +26 percent; car theft +68 percent; grand larceny +16 percent; and petit larceny +19 percent. These numbers coincided with the release of every defendant held solely on bail charged with burglary, car theft, grand larceny, and petit larceny from city jails as a result of the new law.
For this reason, Quinn recommends the New York State legislature change these laws—that is, reform the reform—by expanding judicial discretion with respect to release decisions, allowing them to impose conditions such as bail on any defendant’s release, irrespective of the charge, within certain broad guidelines; and, perhaps most important, by allowing judges to consider public safety and the defendant’s risk of re-offending when making release conditions.