Hochul Calls for Bail Changes and Gun Violence Programs in Final Budget, Citing New Crime Data

Legislative Gazette photo, above, by Morgan Sumner. Cover photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor.

On March 22, Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled new crime statistics at a press conference in Albany to highlight her public safety proposals for the FY 2024 budget. 

The centerpiece of Hochul’s plan to make New York safer is a proposed $337 million in programs designed to prevent and reduce gun violence.

“New Yorkers deserve a criminal justice system that prioritizes both safety and justice,” Hochul said to a crowd of Capital Region mayors, state lawmakers and reporters. “We cannot rest until every single New Yorker feels safe in their homes, in their streets, in our subways, and in their places of work.”

The governor cited new statewide crime data, reported through the end of February, that shows shooting incidents with injury declined 17 percent in New York City from 2021 to 2022, and 15 percent in the 20 communities that report gun violence data to the state. The data compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice services continued to decline in the first two months of 2023. 

The same data shows the number of reported murders declined 11 percent statewide in 2022, with 94 fewer people killed. 

“Statewide, shootings went down from 2021 to 2022 by 16 percent,” Hochul said Wednesday. “Thus far [in 2023], shootings are down 21 percent in New York City and 34 percent outside of New York City for this year alone.

“These are very, very positive developments,” Hochul added. “And we’re seeing a positive reduction, back to closer to where we were before the pandemic, which is what we’re striving for.”

While overall index crime increased 21 percent from 2021 to 2022, Hochul noted they have not reached the levels of the 1970, 80s and 90s. Index crimes refer to serious crimes such as rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Of the $337 million invested in combating gun violence, $37 million will be distributed to programs in Gun Involved Violence Elimination jurisdictions. The GIVE program supports 20 police departments, district attorneys’ offices, probation departments and sheriffs’ offices in 17 counties: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Nassau, Niagara, Oneida, Orange, Rensselaer, Rockland, Schenectady, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester. 

Of the 62 counties in New York state, these 17 counties account for more than 80 percent of the violent crime that occurs outside of New York City.

In the 2022-2023 budget, $200 million was invested in preventing and reducing gun violence. Hochul outlined the feats that this funding was able to help bring down the rate of shootings, most notably being the ban of “ghost guns” and successfully raising the age to purchase a semi-automatic to 21 years old.

Legislative Gazette photo by Morgan Sumner

With the budget deadline approaching, Hochul raised the the topic of bail reform for violent and nonviolent crimes, stating that she has “always supported the underlying premise of bail reform because I don’t believe that someone’s wealth should be a determining factor on whether or not someone is incarcerated or not.”

The governor addressed her legislative proposal to remove the language in the state’s bail laws requiring judges to apply the “least restrictive” means when deciding whether or not an individual arrested for a serious crime should be released or supervised before their trial. 

By removing confusing language, Hochul is hoping to clear the fog around the factors used to evaluate someone’s bail eligibility.

“I want to remove any question about whether a judge has discretion to set bail or remand individuals, meaning hold them if they’re accused of a serious crime,” Hochul said. “I want to make it absolutely clear that judges have both the authority and the accountability for these important decisions.

“I should make it clear that we’re not incarcerating people for low-level crimes or criminalizing poverty, but giving judges the discretion necessary to ensure public safety,” Hochul continued. “And public opinion is clearly on the side of this clarification for judges. It’s just common sense. It’s supported by most New Yorkers, and the data is also with us. 

Hochul said Wednesday that recidivism rates have gone down for low-level offenders, but for violent felonies, we are seeing an uptick in recidivism – people reoffending while they’re out and even bigger increases for recidivism for defendants with serious crimes.”

“In other words, a relatively small percentage of people are responsible for a disproportion share of our public safety challenges,” Hochul said. “These individuals are the ones who are the focus of our bail proposal.”

At Wednesday’s announcement, Hochul was flanked by Rossana Rosado, the commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services; Marcos Soler, the deputy secretary for Public Safety; Micah Lasher, director of policy for Gov. Hochul; and New York State Police Col. Dominick Chiumento.

State lawmakers in attendance in the Red Room were Senators James Skoufis, Monica Martinez, Kevin Thomas, and Jessica Scarcella-Spanton; Assembly Member Monica Wallace and President-elect of the District Attorney’s Association for the State of New York, John Flynn from Erie County.

“Protecting New Yorkers is my number one priority,” Hochul said. “And that’s why we’ve made a steadfast commitment to fight crime all across our state; driving down gun violence, restoring public safety, [and] expediting our cases through the criminal justice system.”

Watch the governor’s full press conference here: