It takes two to tango, but three is a quantity that Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams discover. They want to work together to reduce crime, but Manhattan’s radicals new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, have other ideas.
His promise to go easy on almost all suspects except those charged with murder, domestic violence and sexual assault will undermine law enforcement’s push from Hochul and Adams. They will not be able to curb the out of control violence if Manhattan is a sanctuary.
“Over and over again, New Yorkers tell me they do not feel safe,” Hochul said in her state speech. “They do not like what they see on the street, and things feel different now, and not always for the better.”
But she and Adams may forget to change that feeling if Bragg follows up with his compassion for criminals. The proverb that “if you can not cope with the time, do not commit the crime” falls flat if there are no consequences.
Because Manhattan is New York for most of the world, what happens there will define the entire city. Thus, the goal of winning back tourists and the trust of those who fled to Florida and elsewhere as crime increased, could toast.
Some city prosecutors have already walked down the soft-on-crime trail, but Bragg extends the idea beyond the breaking point.
That is the conclusion of the new top officer Keechant Sewell, who responded to Bragg’s policy note to his staff with a blister of her own. In a letter to NYPD troops, she accused the DA of endangering officers and the public, writing that Bragg “effectively decriminalizes much of the behavior that New Yorkers are asking police to address.”
That is the crux of the matter. Bragg misunderstands the prevailing public sentiment, which urges police to do more, not less.
In fact, as a sign of how far out of step he is, online readers of The New York Times were overwhelmingly critical of his plans in Friday night’s response to the history of the newspaper. The Times supported Bragg during the campaign, so the one-sided reaction among his readers was particularly revealing.
It’s an element of a situation that is peculiar even to Gotham. In another part, Adams and Bragg, both black Democrats, share many of the same supporters.
Adams received 219,000 votes in Manhattan, or about 80 percent of those eligible to vote in the general election, his highest rating in the city.
Same day, Bragg won 182,000 votes, or 83 percent of the ballots cast in Manhattan in his competition.
The great overlap comes despite the fact that their conflicting views were well known. Adams, a former captain of the NYPD, was elected on a pledge to stop the crime frenzy and bring back undercover anti-weapons units.
He and Hochul quickly switched from the childish feud between their predecessors, Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, and met several times to map a common agenda. They say they will work together to make subways safer and join forces to roll back some progressive “reforms” that put an end to cash bail for most suspects and turned court buildings into revolving doors and streets into killing fields.
Bragg is against pretty much everything they stand for. He is against the anti-weapons units and says at his election night party that he would tackle illegal weapons with unspecified “new tools”. He also said it was an urgent priority to get more people out of jail, citing a “humanitarian crisis” at 1 p.m. Rikers Island, the Times reported.
Still, it seems that the details he laid out in his staff memo go beyond his campaign rhetoric. There would be few exceptions to his policy of avoiding imprisonment in most cases, and they would require “extraordinary circumstances,” he wrote.
The memo also warned aides to consider the “effects of incarceration” and whether being in jail makes it too difficult for released convicts to get housing and jobs. He also asked them to consider racial differences when deciding whether to prosecute them.
Victims were an afterthought, if that.
Bragg also stressed that he would like to downgrade many cases, regardless of the allegations made by the police. For example, robbers using weapons or other lethal weapons will only be prosecuted for petty theft, a misdemeanor if no victims were seriously injured. Usually, armed robbery is a crime.
(Bragg, speaking at an Al Sharpton rally on Saturday, stressed that armed robbery will still be prosecuted as such, which seems to contradict the note.)
Suspects with rap sheets who are caught with weapons other than weapons will have charges reduced to misdemeanors, his instructions say. Usually, criminal possession of a weapon is a crime.
And suspects charged with burglary of businesses in mixed-use buildings and storage areas will also have the charge downgraded. Those who oppose the arrest will generally not be charged at all, which is a particular concern for the new police commissioner.
In addition to New York, Bragg’s plan will send political shockwaves across the nation. Adams’ victory on his anti-crime agenda got the attention of the White House, which was shaken by opinion polls showing that many voters blame Dems for the “defund the police” movement and the alarming rise in crime.
At least 12 major cities set homicide records last year, including Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Baton Rouge, La., Austin, Texas and Louisville, Ky. It followed one national jump in homicides of 30% by 2020, the largest single-year increase in 60 years.
“No one is being arrested anymore,” Robert Boyce, a retired NYPD detective, told ABC News. “People are being picked up for gun possession and they are just being let out again and again.”
Referring to FBI data, ABC says the number of nationwide arrests in 2020 was 7.6 million, down 24 percent from 2019 and the lowest in 25 years.
In response, Democrats are trying to create new messages ahead of the midterm elections. President Biden appears to have scrapped demonizing talk of “systemic racism” in law enforcement and instead promises to send federal money to help cities hire more officers.
These are good beginnings. Now someone had to tell it to Alvin Bragg, who clearly did not get that note.