Queens councilmen accuse NYPD commissioner of pushing misconceptions about bail reform

Photo by Todd Maisel

Queens Councilmen Rory Lancman and Donovan Richards penned a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on Thursday, Feb. 6, accusing him of pushing a false narrative by asserting that bail reform laws are to blame for a 17 percent crime spike in the month of January.

In the letter, Lancman and Richards, who respectfully chair the Council’s committees on the Justice System and Public Safety, asked whether the commissioner was referencing unpublished data during the Feb. 4 CompStat meeting, when he attributed the spike in index crimes to “people getting post-Jan. 1 and then getting rearrested.”

Asked by reporters at the Feb. 4 meeting for evidence that the bail reform laws are behind the crime spike, Shea declined to go into detail on how they were linked.

In their letter, the legislators dive into CompStat figures comparing the number of individuals released without bail in January with the extent of the spike.

“Crime data figures released by the NYPD itself demonstrate no such correlation, and we’re wondering whether there is any other, unpublished data you relied upon to conclude that crime is increasing because of the bail reform law,” wrote the legislators.

CompStat lists 1,222 more index crimes in January 2020 than in January 2019, which Shea attributed to the number of people who were released without bail over the past month and rearrested.

But the letter points out that out of the 230 arrests in January 2020 that involved people released without bail in January, only 84 were actually index crimes. These 84 index crimes represent less than 7 percent of the 1,222 more index crimes committed in January 2020 than the previous year, and only 1 percent of the 8,437 total index crimes that month, the letter states. 

“Clearly, something other than bail reform cause the January crime numbers to spike,” wrote Richards and Lancman. “Simply put, your numbers don’t add up, and the public and policymakers are ill-served by false narratives that inhibit legitimate conversations about improving the bail reform law.”

The two councilmen will have an opportunity to further question commissioner Shea about these figures at the Council’s Public Safety budget hearing at 2 p.m. on March 19.