Assemblymember Wallace: Budget Prioritizes Public Safety

“The New York State budget prioritizes public safety by making historic investments in law enforcement agencies and programs that are proven to reduce crime, and makes significant changes to address shortfalls in the bail reform law. It includes $10 million to help police enforce extreme risk protection orders to seize guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others, as well as tens of millions of dollars for the SNUG Street Outreach Program, Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative, and other anti-violence programs. The budget also provides funding to programs that help victims of domestic violence, including the Domestic Violence Clinic at Buffalo Law School, and rape crisis centers. Additionally, $2 million is allocated to create a deed theft prevention program to help ensure homeowners are not scammed out of their most valuable asset.

“Critically, the budget removes the “least restrictive means” language in the bail reform law and restores language that existed before the reforms. This change will increase judicial discretion and give judges the tools they need to keep the community safe when individuals are charged with serious crimes or accused of repeat offenses. Equally important, police will no longer be permitted to simply give a “desk appearance ticket” to those accused of domestic violence offenses. Instead, anyone accused of domestic violence will be required to be formally arrested and brought before a judge for processing, thereby ensuring a “cooling off” period for the offender and giving the victim an opportunity to seek shelter and obtain an order of protection. While the budget doesn’t make all the changes I’d like to have seen on the issue of bail reform, it is a significant step in the right direction. The budget also provides prosecutors with millions of dollars to meet evidence disclosure requirements and increases the rate of pay for attorneys assigned to represent children and criminal defendants. Collectively, these changes will give judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement more tools to protect the public while ensuring a fairer criminal justice system.

“With this budget, we also showed our commitment to addressing the root causes of crime. The best way to reduce crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Therefore, we are investing in restorative justice and community safety programs, community dispute resolution centers, street outreach and crime prevention programs, and programs to help the formerly incarcerated reenter society in a productive and law-abiding manner. Because mental illness often plays a role in driving crime, we’ve established a task force to study and make recommendations on best practices for improving emergency response for individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems. Furthermore, we are also investing $1 billion into mental health programs, including the creation of 3,500 residential units for New Yorkers who are struggling with mental health problems.

“The COVID-era crime surge has impacted red and blue states alike, but fortunately, here in Western New York, we’ve seen a reduction in overall crime. This budget includes programs and tools to ensure that trend continues by empowering judges and law enforcement to hold violent offenders accountable and investing in social services to address the root causes of crime. A safer New York benefits all of us.”