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Monroe County Sheriff: Bail reform linked with crime spike

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In the aftermath of Rep. Lee Zeldin criticizing the state’s bail reform law after the man accused of attacking him was released with no bond set, bail reform is back in the spotlight.

The DA’s office chose to only charge the man accused of trying to stab Rep. Zeldin with attempted assault in the second degree, which does not qualify for a bond to be set.

Since then, Monroe County Sherriff Todd Baxter has been meeting with lawmakers at all levels arguing more revisions to the law must be made.

Since the last session ended, New York judges were given more power to set bail for gun and hate crimes. Or repeat offenses of property theft. But for Sherriff Baxter, it does not go far enough.

“Just no standards in there to allow us to look at a person and say they’re a menace to society,” Sheriff Baxter said. “They’re a threat to our community. There’s nothing in there to allow us to look at that and decided to detain this person. We know a person who carried a gun twice this year, and we know a person n who carried a gun three times this year. They’re not detained. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Over the weekend, the sheriff’s office tweeted data showing from 2019-2021, which showed that victims of shootings in Rochester jumped from 172 to 419. While bookings in the county jail dropped more than 50%. However, those numbers include all violators arrested for non-gun-related charges.

Sheriff Baxter argues there’s still a relation.

“Minor crimes if you want to call them like larceny at the stores,” Sheriff Baxter said. “When that starts being reduced, you’ll see a cross-section there that could illustrate very clearly when you do less enforcement there’s potential for significant crime to go up. Or violent crime to go up.”

“It’s less restrictive in a sense that people being charged are given an opportunity to essentially be not incarcerated while their charges are pending,” Defense Attorney Derrick Hogan said.

He feels the focus should be on giving suspects of misdemeanors or non-violent felonies with little financial resources more chances to fight their case outside of incarceration. He says that gun violence does not link to bail reform policies.

“I think when you move away from monetary bail and less restrictive means,” Hogan said. “Whether it’s reporting for pronation or electronic monitoring, I think those are beneficial for certain individuals. For low-level offenses or low-level drug offenses, I don’t think it’s necessary to put a bail of an extraordinary amount of money before the case actually goes to a trial.”

Throughout the day Sheriff Baxter told us he met with more than 10 lawmakers at all levels for bail reform revision ideas and said that they all agreed the current policies are not perfect.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley has faced some scrutiny for her friendship with Zeldin, and her support of his campaign. A spokeswoman for Doorley said that she has never been a co-chair for the Zeldin campaign, and that she plans to recuse herself from the prosecution of David Jakubonis — the man accused in Thursday’s attack.

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