Vera Institute of Justice Responds to Critics’ Fearmongering of Bail Reforms in New York State

Bail reform expert Insha Rahman available for media interviews

NEW YORK, NY - Today, the Vera Institute of Justice released a response to bail reform critics who cite short-run statistics to inaccurately tie bail reform in New York State to a recent uptick in certain crimes. Below (and attached with data) is the response from the Vera Institute.

Please be advised that Insha Rahman, Vera’s leading bail expert and Director of Strategy and New Initiatives, is available for comment or interviews. She recently advocated for the reforms in an opinion piece in The New York Times co-authored with Emily Bazelon ("There’s a Strong Case for Sticking With Bail Reform") and has been cited in stories in The New York Post, Gothamist, and The Brooklyn Paper.



Crime in New York is at historic lows. Nevertheless, critics of bail reform, which went into effect on January 1, claim that the law has led to a surge in crime. Citing an increase in the number of burglaries, robberies, and car thefts in New York City in the first three weeks of 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, for example, has asserted that “we’re seeing significant spikes in crime.” But his selective use of short-run statistics doesn’t support this statement.

While it is true that the number of specific crimes he referenced were higher at the beginning of 2020 than during the same three-week period in 2019, other crime rates actually fell. The number of murders and rapes reported in the city dropped. Felony assaults declined. The number of grand larcenies—which accounted for more incidents than robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts combined—rose only slightly. Just as it would be wrong to proclaim that New York City is safer today than it was a year ago just by looking at those statistics, it is also wrong to conclude that New York is less safe based on the statistics Shea cites.

When we look at crime trends over the last year in New York City, we see that the number of robberies, burglaries and car thefts—the crimes cited by Shea—all increased in the middle of 2019, long before bail reform went into effect. The numbers have remained relatively stable since then, with no new increase as bail reform took effect. There are undoubtedly a number of factors contributing to the uptick in those crimes, but the timing of the increase and bail reform simply does not line up. And, even with those increases, New York City remains the safest big city in America.

Opponents of the new law have been hard at work wrongly warning that bail reform endangers public safety. But criminologists and statisticians know it is far too early to reach any conclusion about the impact of bail reform. Fearmongering should have no role in driving policy.

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

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