Legislature Should Return to Albany for Special Session to Address Surge in Crime, Repeal Bail Reform

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

All one must do is open the morning paper or turn on the evening news to learn about the latest community devasted by a shooting, brutal attack or a laundry list of other random acts of violence taking place across New York state. It cannot be disputed – crime is surging across the state. To help overcome these atrocities, last week I joined my colleague Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt to urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to convene a special session of the Legislature to finally address this issue and repeal the Majority lawmakers failed bail reform laws.

For years, members of the Assembly Minority Conference and I have warned that the dangerous criminal justice policies that have been enacted under One-Party Rule would put the public and law-enforcement community at risk. And for all Majority lawmakers talk of reversing or improving their half-hearted attempts to fix the monster they created in 2019, New Yorkers aren’t safer. In fact, just last week – within a 24-hour period – two Rochester police officers were shot, one fatally, and Congressman Lee Zeldin was attacked in public.

As if that’s not frightening enough, in New York City alone, major crimes are up nearly 40% this year. It’s not just Minority lawmakers that realize the state’s criminal justice policies are a disaster either. This week, city Mayor Eric Adams, called for a special session of the Legislature to prevent New York from becoming “a laughingstock of the country.”

Unfortunately, until the governor and legislative majorities enact meaningful measures that protect victims and law-abiding citizens and repeal bail reform once and for all, New York will continue down this path. It will also take the cooperation of other elected officials, take for example, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, to enforce such measures that hold violent, menacing criminals responsible.

As elected officials, we have a responsibility to safeguard the interests of every resident of this state, enact meaningful legislation that improves their quality of life and provide them with the tools they need to live safe, successful and productive lives. The only way to do this is to restore order, and for years my colleagues and I have been advocating for measures that would:

  • restore judicial discretion;
  • move all gun crimes from the no-bail list of offenses;
  • require a unanimous vote of at least three parole commissioners to grant a prisoner early release;
  • authorize life in prison without parole for persistent violent felony offenders;
  • make it a Class B violent felony for firing a gun into a crowd with intent to harm; and
  • make a hate crime a qualified offense for purposes of bail issuance.

We aren’t going to move the needle on this horrific surge in crime without commitment, collaboration and a collective understanding that something must change. Sadly, there is no other way to curtail this unprecedented and unsustainable wave of violence and depraved indifference to human life sweeping across our state.