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The Assembly Minority Conference

Criminal Justice Reform Must Fix New York’s ‘Career Criminal’ Issue

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

New York continues to lag the nation in job recovery but creating the new profession of “career criminal” is not the answer. Crime across the state, and particularly in New York City, has become completely entrenched in our daily lives. While the Assembly Minority Conference continues to push our counterparts and the governor to do something about it, there seems to be no real progress on the issue as we move through 2023.

A recent report in the New York Times indicates last year nearly one-third of all shoplifting arrests in New York City featured the same 327 individuals. According to the report, those individuals accounted for a whopping 6,000 arrests. This is proof-positive this state’s criminal justice policies are not working, and the victims of these thefts are clearly an afterthought to the legislators who have allowed this to go on.

In order to combat this unprecedented failure of public protection, Assemblyman Mike Reilly (R,C-Staten Island) has introduced legislation (A.5029) to increase penalties for persistent offenders. The bill would give district attorneys the power to consider the aggregate value of petit larcenies from up to 18 months after the first conviction in order to enforce stricter penalties. If that value is between $1,000 and $3,000, district attorneys would be allowed to charge an individual suspected of the thefts with “grand larceny in the fourth degree.”

Solving this problem seems straightforward and non-partisan. Individuals who feel emboldened and entitled to take other people’s property need to face real consequences. Eliminating those consequences enables criminals to keep breaking the law. By returning our criminal justice system to one of accountability, we will no longer be forced to endure the relentless assault on our communities brought by criminals acting with near immunity.

For a state that consistently ranks at or near the bottom for outmigration, the issues of crime and quality of life need to take a greater priority. Providing law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to hold repeat offenders accountable is a reasonable first step. Judicial discretion and discovery reform are reportedly part of state budget negotiations, and I hope those measures are addressed. However, more needs to be done, and I implore my counterparts to consider criminal justice changes that go beyond the measures being discussed in the state spending plan.