Opinion: During a pandemic is no time to abandon basic law-and-order

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Our progressive friends are now demanding that due to the coronavirus, we let criminals out of jail and lay off arrests and prosecutions. Unfortunately, our Democrat elected officials are dutifully following their marching orders.

Here’s a novel idea: don’t commit crimes against innocent New Yorkers and you won’t have to worry about being in jail during these times. 

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander said, “New York City and New York State have a responsibility to shrink the jail population by halting arrests.”

Indeed, there may be legitimate concerns about the population on Rikers Island under these circumstances, but telling criminals they are free to commit their bad deeds without fear of arrest is ludicrous. Since the jail population is about half of what it was six years ago, there is plenty of room to socially space inmates and provide proper medical service. Doing this makes more sense than releasing criminals and halting arrests.

Now, more than ever, we need order. However, our own Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, publicly announced that his office will immediately stop prosecuting certain offenses. His spokesman actually said that one of the specific crimes that will get a pass is shoplifting. This is nuts. 

During these times, Gonzalez is telling everyone that they can steal from our local supermarket or any other business that is still permitted to be open. Some businesses are going to have a tough enough time staying afloat, but now they must also worry about losing money to shoplifters. Now, managers and employees will also have to act more as security guards, rather than getting needed stock to the shelves and helping their paying customers. Announcing that you can steal without worrying about prosecution is negligence by anyone, but even more so for a top “prosecutor.” 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has also jumped on the bandwagon. He recently announced that the city will be reviewing 200 inmates in city jails for release on a rolling basis.

Thankfully, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has said he is not going along with the advice of the Legal Aid Society, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Councilman Lander and many other lawmakers to slow down on arrests. He said, “We have no intention of strategically cutting enforcement specifically related to the coronavirus.” At least there is one adult in the room at City Hall.

We already have a public health crisis; we don’t need a public safety one also.

Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials, and has been an adjunct political science professor for over 15 years. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano