Whose Assembly? Her Assembly!
A Democratic state legislator from Brooklyn claims she has sufficient support to derail a planned revision of the state’s controversial bail reform law — despite the wishes of people in her high-crime district.
Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said in a statement Wednesday night that her chamber’s Democratic majority “opposes any changes to weaken or upend the bail laws and subject more New Yorkers to the dangers of pretrial jailing.”
“I just cannot accept the attempt to play nonsensical word games with our laws,” added Walker, who supported the 2019 bail reform measure.
But in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, the heart of Walker’s district, crime-weary New Yorkers took issue with her refusal to compromise in the name of public safety and give judges more power to lock up alleged bad guys.
“She is a very, very good friend of mine but she’s wrong on this. Wrong, wrong, wrong on this,” community activist Royston “Uncle Roy” Antoine said. “It’s unbelievable what is going on around here. The Petit Larceny is rampant around here. They go into the stores, take what they want and there’s no consequences.”
Antoine added: “They almost put our Rite Aid and Walgreen out of business. They’re putting the small man out of business. Our community needs these businesses to survive.”
Nyron Campbell, a youth-outreach worker in Brownsville, said, “The current bail reform law has caused a lot of problems, in terms of violent offenders being released on their own recognizance.”
Campbell, who lives in nearby Crown Heights and described himself as a former gang member, said the young people he worked with “are mostly involved in gun violence, gang violence and robberies,” and include many repeat offenders.
“Bail reform helps and hurts them at the same time. It doesn’t give them a chance to reform or learn from their mistakes because the consequences aren’t severe enough,” he said. “They know they can get caught with a gun, get out and keep doing what they been doing.”
Longtime Brownsville resident Anthony Salmond, 59, said, “Bail reform was a good thing when it came in but repeat offenders are taking advantage of the system because they know they’re just going to get a DAT [desk appearance ticket] and go home.
“That means less stuff on the shelves and more crime,” he said. “You can’t get certain things from the store because they steal from the pharmacy and sell to the bodegas. Everything’s all locked up — deodorant, detergent, household stuff and personal-needs things.”
A Brooklyn cop also accused Walker of “not having any idea what is going on in her district.”
“She represents one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city,” the cop said. “She should ask the people who live in her area how they feel about criminals constantly being let out of jail.”
Walker’s statement came after Politico Pro said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) had privately floated the idea of backing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest bail reform plan as part of state budget negotiations – a push subsequently confirmed by the New York Post.
Hochul’s revision would give judges more discretion in setting bail by lifting the requirement that they impose the “least restrictive conditions” possible for the serious offenses when releasing defendants from custody.
On Wednesday, Hochul acknowledged that a deadlock over bail reform and other key issues would prevent lawmakers from meeting the April 1 deadline to adopt a fiscal 2024 budget.
It’s unclear what role Walker is playing in the impasse, but one Democratic Assembly member expressed outrage at her claim to be speaking for its majority.
“Has Walker been elected speaker? No. Carl Heastie is the speaker of the conference. Who is she to speak for the conference?” the legislator said. “The law we passed in 2019 wasn’t perfect and needs adjustments.”
A Heastie spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Walker has been among the most impassioned and vocal supporters of bail reform and in 2020 blasted fellow lawmakers who approved tweaks that included allowing judges to set bail for people accused of making child pornography.
Walker called the modest measures “shameful” and took a shot at her colleagues by saying, “You know, they say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to prove to the world that he didn’t exist.”
Last year, she also went on a hunger strike to oppose additional changes that allow a judge to consider whether a defendant has been accused of inflicting “serious harm” on a victim or has a history of using or possessing a gun.
Walker’s district is largely covered by the NYPD’s 73rd Precinct, where total major crimes have declined 11.3% over the past year, as of Sunday, but felony assaults are up 8.8% and rapes nearly doubled, from six to 11.
A small section is also covered by the easternmost part of the 77th Precinct, which has seen a 1.74% increase in overall major crimes during the same period, including a 31.2% spike in felony assaults and an even greater 35.7% surge in auto thefts.
Citywide, the major crime rate is flat, with a 13.4% drop in murders and increases in only felony assaults and auto thefts of 8.5% and 6.7%, respectively.
Additional reporting by Zach Williams
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