Public Safety Is At Risk In New York

Legislative column from Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats)

Since the so-called bail reforms have been enacted in New York state, nearly 100 cases have been reported where serial criminals and violent individuals have been released after committing heinous crimes, or have committed a serious crime after being released because of the changes to pre-trial detention. These have included perpetrators who have killed through hit-and-run incidents, drunk driving, shootings of domestic partners, and through tragic abuse where an infant died from an overdose of methamphetamine. Add to that the numerous non-violent yet terrible crimes such as the woman who committed grand larceny by stealing $26,000 from a developmentally disabled man. New York has a serious problem at hand.

Bail reform did not need to be handled the way it was in New York. In fact, many proponents of the reforms point to New Jersey as a success story and I would agree, our neighboring state handled the reforms more thoughtfully and intentionally than New York.

New Jersey’s reforms are far more successful for a number of reasons – the first being that all criminal justice stakeholders were able to lend their expertise to help finely hone a law that would make sense for their state. This is in contrast to our state, which flatly ignored the NYS Justice Task Force report’s recommendations that justices should be “permitted to consider whether a defendant currently poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an identifiable person or group of persons” when setting pre-trial conditions. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), New York is the only state which does not allow for judges to take into account public safety in determining pre-trial release and its conditions.

After the New Jersey bail reform proposal was crafted, it was then presented to the public at hearings held in every single county. The same year the law was passed in 2014, there was also a successful public referendum that ensured judges still had discretion over pre-trial detention to keep victims and the public safe. New York’s law was forced upon its people as part of the budget and was rushed through on a message of necessity, preventing the normal three days of aging a bill, which allows for vetting and public input on legislation.

New Jersey took the time to roll out the bail and pre-trial reforms over three years and provided more than $140 million to add needed judges and other dedicated staff to properly and safely implement the reforms. There wasn’t the nine month, mad-dash that our state haphazardly took to implement the law, and it is evident in the resulting outcomes.

Compounding matters is the state’s new policy prohibiting access of the state’s DMV system to 25 different police agencies because said agencies would not agree to the Green Light bill provisions, prohibiting them from sharing information about illegal immigrants to the federal government. The Green Light Law, passed by the Senate Majority and the Assembly Majority, allows illegal immigrants to apply for and obtain a driver’s license. In order for this state law to “work,” it requires law enforcement and DMV staff to ignore the breaking of federal law. These law enforcement agencies are just trying to keep our communities safe, and the state has taken away a critical tool in policing.

New York’s public safety policy has taken a radical shift while in the hands of so-called progressive leftists. The state’s policies placate law breakers and violent criminals, rather than support our police and protect our communities. I support practical reforms, but not at the risk of public safety or officers’ lives. I proudly sponsor A.8855, a bill which would repeal the mess of bail reform, so New York can start fresh with input from professionals and the public impacted by the reforms.

I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Please share your ideas with me by calling me at

607-562-3602, or by emailing me at