Democratic cities that enacted bail reform see rise in crime, repeat offenses

The suspected Waukesha Christmas parade attacker, who had a long criminal history, had been released on $1,000 bail just days prior to the massacre in a case in which he was accused of running a woman over in his car.
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parade
Aftermath of Christmas parade in which five people were killed. Waukesha, Wis., Nov. 22, 2021.
(Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

Democratic-run cities that have implemented bail reform have seen a rise in criminal activity amid the release of criminals with multiple offenses who went on to commit additional crimes following their releases.

Just five days before allegedly plowing a red SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisc., killing six, the suspected attacker, who had a long criminal history, had been released on $1,000 bail in a case in which he was accused of running a woman over in his car. The low bail for the suspect — even the Milwaukee County DA has since acknowledged it was "inappropriately low" — has thrust bail reform back to the forefront of the national conversation.

In Los Angeles, District Attorney George Gascon eliminated cash bail altogether last year. Since then, murders and shootings in the city have risen sharply year-over-year, with homicides rising 26% in the first six months of the year.

In New York City, criminals are being put back on the streets after the state government enacted bail reform, which eliminated bail altogether for many crimes. Crime, particularly the murder rate, continues to hit record levels in the city compared to past years. 

The New York Police Department has argued that the lack of cash bail for repeat offenders was part of the reason criminal activity was on the rise.

“Last night we arrested an individual, charged with 25 burglaries, but because there was no evidence of a firearm, you can't give him bail," said an NYPD official in March, 2020, following the enactment of bail reform. "If you are charged with one burglary or 25, the subject matter remains the same, and it's the same as being charged with one."

A New York Post editorial from April of this year described the bail reform law in New York City as "no injury, no bail."

Shootings are also reportedly rising in upstate cities like Rochester, N.Y. A Monroe County public defender attributed the crime rise in the county to bail reform.

"We have people out in the streets in New York who have been arrested 10, 15, 20 times for assault [in the third degree], a misdemeanor, and they'll just continue doing that" because they know they are going to be released, said retired NYPD Lieutenant Dave Boehm, according to a Fox 5 article.

Despite the crime wave in major cities, progressive Democratic lawmakers such as Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib and New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continue to push bail reform on a national scale.

"We have grave concerns that excessive bail amounts are leading to unnecessary pretrial detention and contributing to a humanitarian crisis in New York City's jail system, particularly on Rikers Island," Ocasio-Cortez, Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin and New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney wrote in their letter to the district attorneys in New York City's five boroughs.