Op-Ed | Hochul: Action is Imperative on Shoplifting, but Violent Crime is Just Fine

Photo provided by CM Gennaro’s Office

Negotiations regarding the New York State budget have just concluded a few days ago and a budget has passed after more than two weeks of delays. But while Gov. Kathy Hochul has proclaimed this year’s ‘bold agenda’ aims to make New York ‘safer,’ there hasn’t been so much as a whisper about the safety issue New Yorkers actually care about – New York States’s dangerous bail reform laws and the State’s absence of a ‘dangerousness standard,’ which would allow judges to detain without bail those defendants that pose a present a clear and present danger to our communities. (The 49 other states and the federal government have a dangerousness standard. NY State is the only state that lacks this essential protection from the State’s most dangerous offenders.)

Time and time again, the Governor and the State Senate Majority Leader and the Assembly Speaker are failing to address the most glaring deficiencies in the State’s criminal justice system, ignoring the pleas of New Yorkers and every police organization across the state. And honest, law-abiding New Yorkers are paying the price.

In late March, NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller was slain by a career criminal while conducting a routine traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Just a few weeks ago in my district, a 68-year-old woman was set upon, robbed and shoved down the steps of her Church in Jamaica Hills – as she was about to enter the church to attend Sunday Mass. And last month, scores of women took to social media to detail brutal assaults, in which they were randomly punched by strangers in broad daylight.

The disaster of bail reform is sending criminals the exact wrong message that there are no real consequences for crimes in New York State. In my view, Hochul and the Albany legislative leaders – New York State Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – have blood on their hands.

At his funeral, Officer Diller’s wife, Stephanie Diller, reminded our state leaders that it had been two years since NYPD Detectives Rivera and Mora made the ultimate sacrifice – just like her husband. ‘Detective Rivera’s widow Dominique stood before all the elected officials present today pleading for change. That change never came. And now my son will grow up without his father, and I will grow old without my husband,’ she said. ‘How many more police officers and how many families need to make the ultimate sacrifice before we start protecting them?’

Yet sadly, even in the wake of Officer Diller’s tragic death, Gov. Hochul, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins have no plans to heed Stephanie Diller’s advice, have no plans to make plans to do so and have seemingly abandoned any concerted effort to fix  New York State’s crime problem, or even have a serious discussion about it. That is a gross injustice to all New Yorkers. Even Mayor Eric Adams, who used to speak so often about the threat posed by the phenomenon of ‘catch, release, repeat’ of dangerous criminals as he pled for the State to enact a dangerousness standard, remained silent on bail reform and the dangerousness standard during this year’s State budget negotiations, even though it is well known that the best time to pass difficult bills is during the State budget process. It is obvious that the mayor, a former State Senator himself, has given up any hope that the Governor and the State legislative leaders will do anything about fixing the State’s most life-and-death criminal justice deficiencies. Just think about that.

So instead of tackling the scourge of violent crime in our state, Gov. Hochul focused on her new anti-theft plan, which allocated $25 million for a retail theft unit in the New York State Police, $15 million for District Attorneys and local law enforcement, and another $5 million to assist with security costs for businesses that suffer from the epidemic of shoplifting, and increased penalties for shoplifting crimes.

Make NO mistake – Hochul’s anti-shoplifting initiative, while welcome and better than nothing, is, in my view, nothing more than a political stunt designed to create the illusion that the Governor and the two legislative leaders care about crime. While I certainly agree that the penalties for shoplifting crimes – including assault against retail workers – should be increased, this is real low-hanging fruit regarding public safety. 

This is the first budget since Hochul has been governor that life-and-death crime issues did not even make it to the discussion phase. That is tragic and a complete abdication of the governor’s duty to protect our state. The State Senate and Assembly will always play their games and act silly and irresponsible (despite the existence of MANY dedicated, common-sense legislators among the woke-and-wacko legislators), and perhaps until the legislature becomes less ‘woke’ and pro-crime – if that day ever comes – the governor may have tremendous difficulty getting common-sense criminal justice reforms to pass, but to not even discuss it? That is an abomination. The governor has tremendous power to get the legislature to do what it is not inclined to do, but that will never happen if the governor does not even try to assert herself to protect the residents of New York City and the State. She sets the tone for the state on all the big issues. And on the biggest issue of them all – to protect the lives of State residents – she didn’t even try. She’s a disaster. She needs to go. She needs to be defeated in 2026. Period. 

*Council Member James “Jim” F. Gennaro is a Democratic member of the New York City Council. He represents the 24th Council District, which covers the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok-Electchester-Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows-Utopia, Jamaica EstatesHolliswood, Jamaica HillsBriarwood, Mount Hebron & Cedar Grove Cemeteries, Jamaica and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.