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OPINION: As New York Slips Further into Unrest, Democrats do Nothing to Make Streets Safer

By Will Barclay

Date:

New York State’s criminal-justice system has deteriorated to dangerous levels. At the direction of Democrats in the state legislature and New York City, we have seen drastic changes to parole and bail policies that have undermined police officers and put the public in harm’s way. Misguided policies have coincided with a drastic increase in violent crime, creating a situation where bad actors are enabled to commit crimes with little fear of repercussions.

New York is in the middle of an emerging crisis. Crime is skyrocketing and, recently, much of it has been directed at Asian-Americans. Just days ago, a man was caught on video repeatedly kicking a 65-year-old Asian-American woman outside an apartment building in Manhattan. The suspect, Brandon Elliot, was recently released on lifetime parole in 2019 after killing his own mother. Earlier this week, a Hasidic couple, visiting from Belgium, was walking through lower Manhattan with their baby when all three were attacked at knifepoint by a man on parole for attempted murder; he had been out of prison for less than two months.

As part of the Democrats’ criminal-justice agenda, local governments were given a now-passed deadline to reconfigure their policing policies to align more closely with those being pushed by New York City progressives or risk losing their state funding. What we have seen in recent months has been an outrage. Clearly, the most recently enacted criminal-justice policies aren’t working; the bedlam we have seen in recent months should be evidence enough.

And yet while some Democrats have acknowledged the issue, most seem resolved not to do anything about it. After they reworked the state’s bail laws — an overwhelming number of offenses now no longer come with bail requirements — and failed to address parole policies that have greatly contributed to this problem, we have slipped further and further into disorder.

Last September, New York inexplicably paroled and released Samuel Ayala after being convicted of raping and murdering two Westchester mothers while their children were present. Additionally, Herman Bell, who was convicted in 1971 of killing two police officers, was let out of prison by the parole board two years prior to that. And convicted cop-killer Anthony Bottom, who was imprisoned for that same murder, was granted parole shortly after Ayala. To the victims and their families, this flies in the face of justice.

In response, I have sponsored a bill (A.5737) to strengthen legislative oversight of the 19-member parole board, including the following provisions:

• Allowing members of the state parole board to be removed by a majority vote of the Senate and Assembly, in addition to removal by the governor;

• Requiring a minimum of three (currently two) members of the 19-member parole board to interview inmates seeking parole; and

• Requiring a unanimous vote of the three members for each determination on parole (currently only a majority is required).

As violent crime continues to worsen, these proposals are more relevant now than ever. Government’s first responsibility to the people it represents is to provide a safe place to live. Right now, those in charge are failing to protect New Yorkers across the state.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us. 

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