Starting January 1, cash bail will be eliminated for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses in New York state.
According to Sgt. Franklin Bonilla of the 48th Precinct, the 2020 bail reform means, “You might be able to break into somebody’s house and you’ll be out of the precinct (house) within a few hours.”
Bonilla said that the legislation was signed into law by Governor Cuomo to reduce the prison population, but that it makes the job for police officers more complicated. “If you see me arrest someone and then see them out on the streets, don’t get mad at me,” Bonilla, the evening’s speaker, said Wednesday at a Community Board 6 meeting. “(When) the law changes and I have to let them go.”
Residents that attended the public meeting, held on the third-floor room at the Belmont Library, a cramped space with the heat blasting, did not receive the news of the bail reform well. As many sweated through their clothes, they became agitated at the thought of criminals being released back into the neighborhood the same day of their arrest.
Tensions escalated as members of the board demanded to know who was responsible for the reform.
“So, it’s our state assemblymen who are screwing our entire state?” said Frank Franz, a board member and lifelong Belmont resident. “I think we should know what our elected officials are doing in our name.”
The room erupted into panicked commotion as Bronx residents shared their safety concerns with one another.
Bonilla added that with the ringing in of the New Year, a defendant must be allowed the opportunity to revisit the crime scene before a case can be made.
Every speaker who represented an elected official was questioned, including Nicholas Peter, representing Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, and Israel Sanchez representing Councilman Ritchie Torres.
Sanchez gave an update without political comment and said that thanks to Councilman Torres’ work with the Office of Emergency Management, it is now mandatory for the agency to respond within six hours to complaints of homes without heat.
John Sanchez, CB 6 district manager, announced that the board will host a new series of Bronx organizing and civic engagement workshops. The first, ‘Learn What Your Elected Officials Do,’ was held Saturday, November 16. The second session, ‘Voting, the Census and Organizing to be Heard,’ will take place on Saturday, November 23. All workshops will be held at 1932 Arthur Avenue, Room 403-A.
Wilfredo Mercado, representing community affairs at the Bronx district attorney’s office, announced that District Attorney Darcel Clark has been elected for a second term. “She will continue the work that she has already laid the foundation for,” he said.
One attendee asked how the district attorney responded to the new bail reform. Mercado asked that all questions be directed to the DA’s policy department.
Evonne Capers, board chairperson for CB 6, twirled her finger in the air, pointing to the entire room, and said, “I suggest you call. Use your voice.”