State bail reform and coronavirus-related releases from city jails are not driving this year’s surge in shootings, the NYPD’s own data shows — desp
State bail reform and coronavirus-related releases from city jails are not driving this year’s surge in shootings, the NYPD’s own data shows — despite the insistence of department brass to the contrary.
“It’s bail reform. It’s COVID. It’s emptying out prisons,” Commissioner Dermot Shea — who’s credited with developing the department’s data-driven policing model — as he attempted last week to explain the troubling rise in gun violence across the city.
While the surge in gunplay is undeniable, a Post analysis of department data found that most people released under the criminal-justice reforms or amid the pandemic had no known ties to the bloodshed — with criminal justice experts saying the cops should focus their ire on the flow of illegal guns into the city instead of playing the “blame game.”
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Though the city logged 528 shooting incidents through June 30 — a 46-percent spike from the 362 tallied to the same point last year — just one person released under the statewide bail reform laws passed January 1 has been charged with a shooting, according to a breakdown provided by the NYPD.
In fact, just 91 of the approximately 11,000 people sprung from Rikers Island under the initiative — or 0.8 percent — have been found to be anywhere near a shooting this year, the figures show.
And more than half of those 91 are not accused of any wrongdoing, with the department describing 25 as “victims,” and another 24 as “witnesses” — on the grounds that the mere presence of criminal-justice reform beneficiaries is leading to shootings.
In addition to the one charged with a shooting, 31 are described as “suspects,” and the remaining 10 as “perps,” a description not defined further by the NYPD in their breakdown.
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The known connection between those released with the coronavirus bearing down on the city and the spike in shootings was even more tenuous.
While about 275 of the approximately 2,500 Rikers Island inmates sprung to reduce crowding amid the pandemic had been re-arrested as of mid-June, the NYPD said Tuesday that only nine — or 0.3 percent — had been linked to shootings.
One has been arrested, and two are described as persons of interest, while three are victims and three are witnesses.
Despite what the numbers show, NYPD brass has repeatedly drawn a line between the releases and the gunplay.
“It’s a combination of things — bail reform, COVID releases from prison, court shutdown, which has Rikers [Island] at half of where they were,” Chief of Department Terence Monahan said in a Monday press briefing, following a holiday weekend in which at least 49 people were struck by gunfire, eight fatally.
However, the NYPD is also closing out shooting cases at a significantly reduced clip this year.
As of last month, an arrest had been made in just 28 percent of shootings — approximately half of the normal rate — The New York Times reported, citing Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri.
The NYPD declined to comment on The Post’s findings.
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A criminal justice expert was unsurprised to learn that there was no significant link between bail reform and the outburst of gun violence.
“There’s a blame game going on and I don’t think it’s helpful,” said Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission. “I think it would be helpful if the NYPD put [out] a clear report explaining why they think the uptick in shootings is linked to bail reform.”
Aborn posited that there is no one cause to the uptick, but “many,” identifying one of the most pressing as the flood of illegal firearms onto city streets.
“We need a laser-like focus on illegal guns,” he said.
The NYPD disbanded its plain-clothes anti-crime unit — which focused on guns and drugs — on June 15, with Shea citing the unit’s generating a “disproportionate” number of complaints and police-involved shootings.
Aborn also pointed to a move away from so-called “broken windows” policing that could prevent some serious crimes before they happen.
“We’ve had a lot of de-enforcement of low-level offenses,” he said.
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Whatever the cause, Aborn said that the city’s focus must now be on containing the outbreak of violence before it gets any worse.
“That’s why is important,” he said. “[But] We’re getting past the time of why this is happening to what we should do about it.”
This story first appeared in the New York Post.