New York City has a new mayor, Eric Adams. He’s a former cop who campaigned on promises to support the police in efforts to make his city safe from runaway crime
But less enhanced and proactive policing won’t take New York far unless it’s accompanied by effective prosecution of those whom the police arrest. Unfortunately, Manhattan’s new district attorney is on record as an unwilling to perform that core task.
The New York Post reports:
Manhattan’s new DA has ordered his prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences for hordes of criminals and to downgrade felony charges in cases including armed robberies and drug dealing, according to a set of progressive policies made public Tuesday.
In his first memo to staff on Monday, Alvin Bragg said his office “will not seek a carceral sentence” except with homicides and a handful of other cases, including domestic violence felonies, some sex crimes and public corruption.
Bragg has also instructed his team to base prosecutorial judgments on a host of factor for which there is no statutory support. He states:
ADAs should use their judgment and experience to evaluate the person arrested, and identify people: who suffer from mental illness; who are unhoused; who commit crimes of poverty; or who suffer from substance use disorders.
They should also take into account the “impacts of incarceration” (but not including the fact that it prevents criminals from committing crimes) and racial disparities as to who is incarcerated.
It’s wrong and lawless for a prosecutor to stop seeking prison sentences for any class crime for which such sentences are called for by law, or to unilaterally downgrade crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, or to base sentencing on racial characteristics. It’s a travesty to downgrade armed robbery to petty larceny.
As the head of the NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Association says, Bragg “gives criminals the roadmap to freedom from prosecution and control of our streets.” He adds, “in Bragg’s Manhattan, you can resist arrest, deal drugs, obstruct arrests, and even carry a gun and get away with it.”
Bragg’s policies won’t just encourage the crimes he exempts from a meaningful sentences or any sentence at all. It will also promote the crimes he claims to take seriously, including homicide.
In my series of posts about America’s under-incarceration problem, I describe the criminal histories of high-profile murderers. Invariably, I find that they previously committed lesser crimes, such as robbery, assault, resisting arrest, illegal possession of a gun, and/or drug dealing.
Invariably, these criminals received light sentences and/or early release from prison. But at least in most cases they served some time. Under Alvin Bragg, they will serve even less time and in many cases serve none at all.
New York City isn’t among the many jurisdictions that saw violent crime set records or near records in 2021. However, the overall crime rate increased by 11 percent (as of the beginning of November). Robberies jumped 16 percent and felonious assaults increased by 14 percent.
Auto thefts were up by almost 15 percent for the year and, as the new crime of choice, spiked sharply beginning in October. Gun arrests increased by 14 percent.
The city needs to reverse these trends. That’s one of the main reasons it elected Eric Adams mayor. In Manhattan, though, Alvin Bragg poses what looks like an insurmountable obstacle to fighting crime effectively.