By Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay
The recent spike in crime has impacted every corner of New York state. From New York City to Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and their surrounding communities, violent crime has risen steadily for more than a year. Reports are both alarming and heartbreaking. People are afraid for their safety, and the safety of their families.
As members of the Assembly Minority Conference pointed out during a recent press conference featuring crime victims, legal experts and lawmakers, the rise in crime coincides very closely with the misguided reforms recently enacted by the governor and legislative majorities. The near elimination of bail, limiting judicial discretion and a drastic overhaul of the parole system have undoubtedly scored the majority conferences plenty of political points, but it is clear the cost to our communities has been nothing shy of tragic.
There is no better lens to see this play out than the one the victims themselves use. For example, Madeline Brame, a mother and the chairwoman of NYS Victims’ Rights Reform Council, spoke passionately as she advocated on behalf of families across the state being torn apart by violent and dangerous criminals.
In 2018, Madeline’s 35-year-old son, Sgt. Hason Correa, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Afghanistan War and father of three, was murdered by repeat violent felony offenders. While three of Correa’s accused killers are remanded behind bars, one of his attackers, who is charged with murder in the second degree and gang assault, remains free on bail due to the recently enacted, but wildly-flawed, bail “reform” laws.
Or, take the pleas of Lois Bohovesky, the mother of a murder victim who is urging New York state to expand existing statutes to include a parole ban for anyone who kills a child under the age of 18 during a sexual assault. In 1980, Lois’ 16-year-old daughter, Paula, was brutally attacked, raped and killed by two men as she walked home from the library. One of her killers was released from prison in 2020, while the other, Richard LaBarbera, is up for parole this month.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was willing to work with anyone who has a viable solution to the state’s growing violence epidemic. Well, my colleagues and I have several, including the “Restore Order” package of legislation we recently introduced. It includes measures like giving judges back some of their much-needed discretion with respect to bail, requiring unanimity from parole board members when considering early release and other reforms aimed at keeping violent criminals off the streets.
I also wrote a letter to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services asking for a comprehensive review of the recent surge in crime and strategies to combat it. The more data we have, the easier it will be to craft targeted, effective solutions.
Without immediate action from the Legislature, I fear this summer may be one of the most violent in recent history. Put bluntly, we simply cannot endure living in fear. I am calling on lawmakers from every region of New York to come together and devise a solution to this growing problem. Without one, we are going to be hearing more stories like those of Ms. Brame and Ms. Bohovesky.