September 28, 2022

Gramaglia laments bail reforms after car chase and shooting

After Tuesday night’s car chase in which four people, including three police officers, were shot, Buffalo Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia chastised bail reforms that he says get dangerous people out of jail and back on the streets.

“When the accused armed and sometimes [people] with multiple arrests for possession of firearms, getting out of jail because they have too low bail and sometimes being released without bail, that’s a problem,” Gramaglia said. “It’s a real problem. We are here to keep our community safe and we need the triggers. We need those who own guns behind bars.

But do the figures confirm Gramaglia’s accusation?

Partnership for the Public Good Executive Director Andrea O’ Suilleabhain

Buffalo court data shows that only 1.4% of those released on their own recognizance ended up being re-arrested in the first 18 months with the new bail reforms.

As the state budget deadline fast approaches, lawmakers and law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm about the rise in crime in the state during the pandemic and calling on the Governor Kathy Hochul to reconsider the reforms.

But looking at the crime numbers in the city of Buffalo from the year before the reforms were put in place versus the year after, it’s clear the current reforms are working, said Andrea O’Suilleabhain, executive director of the Partnership for the Public Good.

“Almost in all areas, all significant changes have been decreases, [from] 2019 to 2020,” she said. “Upfront, second degree assaults down 109 arrests, burglaries down 45 second degree arrests. Combined robbery charges down 131 arrests.

O’Suilleabhain said the state has yet to respond to requests for 2021 arrest data.

Buffalo attorney Michael Deal’s legal aid office said now is the time for state lawmakers to toe the line on reforms and not give in to any incitement to fear.

Michael Deal-Legal Aid Office

Legal aid attorney Michael Deal

“Politicians react to the loudest voices,” he said. “And right now, the loudest voices on this are those of law enforcement. We have to stress that there is no direct correlation between the statistics that we can compile and an increase in crime due release on bail or no bail.

Instead of rolling back reforms and reinstating tougher bail laws and giving judges greater discretion to determine the public threat posed by a defendant, criminal justice reform groups across the country state are calling on the governor to allocate $1 billion in the budget to anti-gun violence and survivors programs.