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Shea backs lawmakers’ efforts to tighten bail laws for NYC gun offenders

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea Speaks over an array of firearms.
Photo by Dean Moses

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Tuesday applauded the 20 City Council members who sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislative leaders asking that current bail reform measures be amended to curb the onslaught of gun violence involving underage juveniles.

Specifically, the city lawmakers want the state to give judges the ability to jail youth gun law offenders based on their criminal history — and to ban gun offenses involving kids from being handled in family court.

The letter came as the city has seen substantial gun violence, particularly involving underage kids, throughout the pandemic.

Citing NYPD statistics, another tabloid reported that six children between 10 and 17 years of age had been shot to death during the first nine months of 2020 — one more than the total number of kids reported in all of 2019.

In an interview on NY1 Tuesday morning, Shea said that he met with the lawmakers behind the letter, and appreciated that they agreed the time had come to beef up the bail reform measures to keep gun offenders locked up.

“I applaud the [council] members for speaking up,” the commissioner said. “I think we all see what’s going on. To me this has never been about politics. It’s about keeping New Yorkers safe, making small fixes to some existing laws that will have broad implications and doing it the right way and just coming to the table and having that hard conversation so I really commend them for speaking up. I know it’s not always an easy thing to do but it’s what we need and we need more people to do it.”

Bronx City Council member Oswald Feliz authored the letter, which was also sent to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Among the reported signatories included Council members Justin Brannan (D- Bay Ridge), Oswald Feliz (D- Bronx), Ydanis Rodirguez (D- Inwood), Robert Holden (D- Queens), Joe Borrelli (R- Staten Island) and Laurie Cumbo (D- Crown Heights).

The Bronx has been hit particularly hard in juvenile shooting incidents. Murder overall is up 40 percent and shooting incidents are up about 32 percent for the year as compared to this time in 2020, according to police statistics.

“The solution: As a result of the dangerous message –that individuals can be released within hours if caught with an unlawful firearm– society has lost the victims of gun violence but also the individuals who would otherwise be deterred if there were consequences for such inexcusable conduct,” wrote Feliz.

“Specifically, we request that the state: 1) reform state law so that judges have discretion to remand individuals caught with firearms, based on factors including current violent offense and prior criminal history; and 2) fix process which allows the almost-immediate release of individuals arrested due to gun violence, through process in which their case is transferred to a family court,” he wrote.

Under current laws, 16 and 17-year-olds charged with non-violent felonies must be tried as juveniles, and grants judges the authority to send some violent crime cases to family court.

But time is of the essence, Shea observed Tuesday, and every passing day without reform keeps New Yorkers in danger.

“The real question is how many people must suffer before those changes are made, so I think it’s an absolute fact that there will have to be changes to some of these laws. The real question is do we have to wait two years, or can it be done in three months, I mean that’s how I view this problem but I think ultimately, the people in New York City are going to demand [that] changes are made,” said Shea.

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