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Gov. Kathy Hochul says she's reducing crime in New York

10-24 Hochul.jpg
Karen DeWitt
/
NYS Public Radio
Gov. Kathy Hochul recounted her efforts to fight crime, amidst a tightening race for election.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul offered statistics on crime at a press conference Monday, saying the data shows her approach is working.

The event came as the governor appears to be losing ground on the issue to her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Hochul, joined by state Attorney General Letitia James and acting State Police Superintendent Steven Nigrelli, discussed new laws to combat violent crime. She says changes made to the state’s red flag laws, after the May mass shooting in Buffalo where 10 people were killed, have resulted in nearly 2,000 extreme risk orders of protection being issued.

“In each one of these cases, that’s perhaps a crime or an act of violence that didn’t occur, something that was prevented,” Hochul said. “It’s undeniable progress.”

Hochul said in addition, state and local police have seized 8,000 illegal guns in the past year. James said her office has recovered 3,500 illegal weapons.

Hochul recounted other achievements, including calling a special session of the State Legislature after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s century-old conceal carry laws in June, and creating new requirements to obtain a gun permit. Some parts of that law have been put on hold due to ongoing court challenges.

After spiking early in the pandemic, gun-related crime has declined by 2% across the country. New York has seen a larger drop of 14%. The governor said the larger decrease in gun-related and other violent crimes in New York is a result of the changes her administration has made.

The governor also pointed to the lower rate of gun-related deaths in gun-restricted New York, at about five per 100,000 people, compared to states like Mississippi, where the rate is 25 to 28 deaths per 100,000, and where there are few restrictions on guns.

Hochul’s presentation came as several recent polls show the race for governor tightening, and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has focused his campaign on the crime rate, gaining ground. Polls also indicate that many New Yorkers are more concerned about crime than other issues that Hochul has highlighted in her campaign, including abortion rights and threats to democracy.

But Hochul said she’s not reacting to the dynamics of the race.

“I’m not letting the political theater out there affect what we’ve done,” Hochul said. “This is not a new issue for me and I think that’s well-established.”

The attorney general also commented on remarks she made to a Buffalo television station last week, where she indicated that the state’s bail reform laws, which ended many forms of cash bail, should be revisited. Zeldin has criticized the bail law changes, saying they have led to more crime.

James said she has long held the position that the bail reform laws need to be reexamined in the context of other criminal justice issues, but she said it’s a misstep to be “fixated” on bail reform.

“What I said was, we need to look at a panoply of issues, included, but not limited to bail reform,” James said, adding that other “drivers of crime” also need to be examined.

Hochul said there is “no daylight” between her position on the state’s criminal justice laws and James’s views.

Hochul has resisted calls by Republicans, and some Democratic district attorneys, to call a special session of the Legislature to change bail reform. She said she wants to wait until the Legislature is back in session in January, when there will be six months of data to review on changes made to the bail laws last spring. Those revisions made more crimes bail-eligible and gave judges more discretion to set bail.

Republicans were unimpressed with Hochul’s and James’ event. The highest-ranking GOP member of the state legislature, Sen. Minority Leader Robert Ortt, called it an “Election Day ‘Hail Mary.’”

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Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.