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Upstate NY residents say bail reform fuels crime there, too

It isn’t just the Big Apple that’s being hammered by violent crime thanks to bail reform — increased gunfire is riddling upstate cities, state figures show, with residents grieving the loss of slain loved ones and fearful to venture out on the streets after dark.

Official statistics show that fatal shootings in Rochester were up 26.1% this year through June 30, compared to the same period in 2021.

But since then, the Rochester Police Department has tallied five more gun deaths, including the July 21 ambush slaying of a city cop, Anthony Mazurkiewicz, just hours after Mayor Malik Evans declared a state of emergency over firearms-related crime.

Shootings were up nearly 23% in Syracuse and smaller cities like Troy and Binghamton saw even greater surges of 100% and 80%, respectively.

Allie Forest, 42, of Rochester recently buried her 16-year-old daughter, Zahira Smith, who was fatally shot while attending a friend’s Sweet 16 birthday party.

“Bail reform is terrible and it has made the criminals too confident — they are laughing at the police,” Forest said.

Allie Forest, left, and her daughter, Ci-Asia Alves, hold a photo of Forest’s daughter, Zahira Smith, 16, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 in Rochester, N.Y.
Allie Forest, left, and her daughter, Ci-Asia Alves, hold a photo of Forest’s daughter, Zahira Smith, 16, who was shot and killed at a Sweet Sixteen birthday in June.
James Keivom

“If politicians like Gov. [Kathy] Hochul lived on the dangerous streets we do, we wouldn’t have bail reform.”

Troy, located northeast of Albany with a population of 51,401, has seen shootings double from eight to 16 this year, and killings go from one to three.

A 63-year-old resident, who works repairing signs and gave his name as Greg, said former Gov. Andrew Cuomo “made this place more dangerous when he brought in bail reform,” which took effect in 2020.

“Bail reform makes no sense,” he said.

‘Evenings are very scary

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City Crime
Rochester Aspiring rapper Myjel Rand, 25, was killed along with Richard Collinge III, 19, and a third man who survived a shooting near a park in the city’s crime-ridden North Clinton neighborhood on July 19.
“All I know was Myjel was hanging out having a good time and someone came and opened fire,” older sister Whittney Rand, 32, said.
“It wasn’t intended for Myjel. They just open fire and don’t care whoever else is in the mix.”
Syracuse Jeanette Klein, 52, lives in the neighborhood around the sprawling Syracuse University campus — but the focus on higher learning doesn’t extend to the local gun thugs.
“I don’t go out in the evening. I won’t go out after maybe 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. I don’t feel safe going out at night,” she said.
“I have lived in Syracuse my whole life. I think it’s the most dangerous it has ever been.”
Troy Saadia Altaf, a mother of three, works at a convenience store just outside the state’s Albany capital, that’s been robbed three times in the past year — including once by a crook armed with a handgun.
“The evenings are very scary, especially for a woman. I will not work in the evenings,” said Altaf, who lives in nearby Latham.
“After work, I get straight out of Troy,” she said.
Binghamton Fred Spencer was walking with his 12-year-old daughter, Aliza, and her older brother on April 21 when a single shot rang out and struck Aliza in the chest, killing her, less than 100 yards from the family’s home in their normally peaceful East Side neighborhood.
Cops have been tight-lipped about the unsolved slaying, revealing only that the slug that killed Aliza, a gifted student and three-instrument musician, came from a small-caliber weapon.
“Every day is hell,” said Spencer, 52.

“Bail reform gives dangerous criminals carte blanche to do whatever they want, knowing that if they get arrested they’ll be turned around and released straight away.”

Greg added: “Albany would be best to undo anything Cuomo started.”

Syracuse resident Jeanette Klein, who lives near the city’s eponymous university, home to nearly 22,000 students, said, “People have been shot recently within a few blocks of my home.”

Hochul, Klein said, “needs to know bail reform has not worked.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul poses with a barbecue grill in a photo tweeted Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has rejected calls by other politicians to convene a special session of the Legislature to address rising crime by rolling back bail reform.

“I understand the jails are full and they want to give criminals an appearance ticket, but it’s not safe for the rest of us,” she said.

“We’re afraid.”

Jim Mangan, 58, said he moved from The Bronx to Binghamton eight years ago — only to see crime rise in the Southern Tier city, population 47,979.

“Gun violence has increased, definitely,” he said.

A memorial for shooting victim Aliza Spencer, 12, on Thursday, August 4, 2022 in Binghamton, N.Y.   Spencer was killed near her East Side home on April 21, 2022.
A memorial for shooting victim Aliza Spencer, who was killed near her Binghamton home in April.
James Keivom

“Even just in the past couple of months, there’s been a lot of random shootings.”Mangan said he planned to cast a vote “against bail reform” in November.

“Catch and release? No way, man,” he said.

“That’s gotta go. When people get arrested they need to know they’re going to jail.”

Hochul’s hometown is among the cities that saw declines in both shootings and homicides, which were down 32% and 22.3%, respectively, as of June 30.

Whitney Rand embraces the body of her brother, Myjel Rand, during his funeral at Power House Kingdom Cathedral Church of God In Christ on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 in Rochester, N.Y.
Whitney Rand embraces the body of her brother, Myjel Rand, during his funeral in Rochester.
James Keivom

But those improvements followed last year’s dismal increases of 34.3% and 49% as compared to the average number of shootings and killings between 2016 and 2020, respectively.

Last month, Hochul rejected calls by Mayor Eric Adams and Republican state lawmakers to convene a special session of the Legislature to address rising crime by rolling back bail reform.

During a news conference last week, Adams unveiled statistics that show more than 80 percent of people busted for gun possession were released from custody this year.

“How do you take a gun law seriously when the overwhelming numbers are back on the streets after carrying a gun?” he fumed.

Mayor Eric Adams stands in front of the Corona Park Unisphere to announce a new city sanitation composting program to begin this October in Queens.
Mayor Eric Adams unveiled statistics that show more than 80 percent of people busted for gun possession were released from custody this year.
Matthew McDermott

Although bail reform allows judges to set bail for all alleged gun crimes, it also requires them to impose the least restrictive conditions necessary to ensure that defendants will return to court.

The head of the state District Attorneys Association, Washington County DA Anthony Jordan, last week echoed Adams’ repeated demand that judges be allowed to consider a defendant’s “dangerousness” when setting bail.

Until that happens, he said, “the risks posed to public safety by this law will remain.”

Hochul’s challenger, outgoing Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-LI), said in a statement Monday, “Skyrocketing crime has impacted New Yorkers in many parts of our state, from shootings to stabbings, robberies and more.”

“We must repeal cashless bail, support law enforcement more not less, hold criminals accountable and take back our streets for law-abiding New Yorkers,” he added.

Hochul’s spokesperson, Hazel Crampton-Hays, said the governor “is leading a comprehensive approach toward ending the gun violence epidemic, investing millions in gun violence prevention and victim assistance programs, including in Buffalo, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, and Troy.”

Crampton-Hays also said that the state police were “increasing efforts to combat gun trafficking, reporting a 104% increase in illegal gun seizures this year” and that Hochul “worked with the Legislature to tighten our gun laws after the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo.”

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