Opinion: Pandemic or not, criminals must face consequences

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Bill Oxford/Unsplash

Most Democrats still don’t get it. If criminals know there are no real consequences for their actions, they will be more emboldened, and more innocent New Yorkers will suffer.

Just last week, several mom and pop businesses on Third Avenue in Councilman Justin Brannan’s Bay Ridge district were burglarized. With their loss of revenue from the pandemic, these store owners have enough to worry about without having to deal with thieves.

Rather than calling for a tougher response to criminals taking advantage of the pandemic to cause more havoc, Brannan’s response was “I’ve asked the 68th Precinct to step up patrols throughout all of our commercial corridors, I’ve also asked City Hall to lend us more cops.”

Brannan and his progressive brethren, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, fail to understand that if criminals don’t fear getting arrested because they know that they will be released soon after being brought through the precinct doors, no amount of added police presence matters.  

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea recently highlighted this point when he said, “With the existing law, what’s happening is the individuals are being released immediately and that’s something that ultimately in the end will have to be fixed.” In short, in a cost-benefit analysis of whether to commit their bad deeds, it is well worth the risk for criminals today. First, one has to get caught. Then, even if they are, the revolving door will have them back on the streets. 

Obviously, this is a major reason why commercial burglaries, like the ones that just happened in Brannan’s community, have skyrocketed 122 percent citywide between March 12 and April 19, compared to the same time last year.

On top of the bail reform law that had already tipped the scale of justice in favor of criminals, Mayor de Blasio has pushed forward with the progressive utopia of having no one in prison. He has used the pandemic as an excuse to empty our jails and following his lead, those arrested, even for far more serious crimes, are just being let go.

Brannan tweeted on April 8, “Last I checked, New York no longer has the death penalty. That means no one should die in our prisons and jails.” Here is a radical thought: If you don’t want to be subject to the possibility of catching the virus behind bars, don’t commit a crime against innocent New Yorkers. 

Also, there is plenty of room to socially distance between prisoners and create more medical space. Rikers Island used to have a population of over 20,000. Recently, it has been between 4,000 to 5,000. Rather than creating a public safety crisis in addition to a public health one by just letting crime go unpunished, City Hall should use the vast amount of free space wisely in response to the coronavirus.

Not surprisingly, ex-cons have contributed to the spike in crime with their newfound freedom. Serial burglar Victor Castillo, 32, was let go March 24 because of the mayor’s concern for inmates being locked up during this COVID-19 pandemic. Castillo then, showing his appreciation, committed three more burglaries of businesses. Unbelievably, he was released all three times and remains out today. This is just one of many examples of someone released by the mayor’s ill-advised policy only to quickly commit more crimes.

Even more violent criminals are being let off the hook. Two Bronx gang members were cut loose after being charged with attempted gang assault, assault, and possession of a loaded gun. Why? For fear they met get the coronavirus in jail. Again, there are plenty of other examples.

Rather than calling for more police patrols as if it is a panacea, Brannan would better serve his constituents and our city by demanding a halt to the blanket release of criminals. 

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.