Civil rights activist Al Sharpton on Monday urged black lawmakers to approve new measures to rid the streets of repeat offenders and help district attorneys investigate crimes.
Sharpton, who recently convened senior African-American elected officials in New York City, including Mayor Eric Adams, State Attorney General Letitia James, Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), and Assembly Speaker Carl Histie (D-Bronx), to to discuss public security and criminal justice issues was a response to a Siena College poll released Monday that showed 93% of New Yorkers consider crime to be a major problem in the state.
Last year, the preacher famously complained about brazen thefts that resulted in retail stores taking extreme measures, including “locking up my toothpaste.”
“The results of the latest poll in Siena will come as no surprise to anyone who lives and works in the black or brown community. Many of us have spent most of the year calling for fine-tuning of our criminal justice system. Keeping the public safe is a matter of how, not if, which is why this month I called an unprecedented number of black New York city and state leaders to start this conversation,” Sharpton said in a statement.
Sharpton said he supports the creation of a controversial cashless bail law that frees most defendants charged with misdemeanors and non-felonies. He said no one should be held until trial because he was too poor to post bail.
But he said the law needed “amendments” to improve public safety.
“Let me be clear that we are not backing down on the hard-won reforms that have ended the incarceration of men of color at Rikers simply because they are too poor. But there are tricks that can turn these good reforms into great ones by addressing issues like recidivism, giving our district attorneys the tools they need, and helping the thousands of mentally ill New Yorkers forced onto the streets,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton seemed to be on the same wavelength as Adams, who complained about repeat offenders or professional criminals returning to the streets and wreaking havoc on society.
The Post also reported last week on a study by the Manhattan Institute that found that the state’s controversial new law on evidence has led to an increase in prosecutors’ dismissal of cases.
Sharpton, who had protested police brutality for decades, sought to strike a balance between crime and civil rights. He opposes the “defend the police” movement as it is promoted by “latte liberals”.
But he also said he would not sit idly by and allow “Albany Republicans” to “demonize” black leaders trying to find common ground on public safety and criminal justice issues.
“We are going to stand up for our leaders every time you try to mislead the public about their commitment to public safety. Every day we see the worst of rising crime just as we see the worst of police brutality. We will not allow you to take away justice for our community or interfere with the safety of our streets,” Sharpton said.
He expects black leaders to rise to the challenge.
“This is the moment when black leaders will show why the voters put them in power. We must all support their efforts and stand up to those who want to turn back the clock in the name of justice. I know we are ready to take on this challenge.”
A poll in Siena found that 93% of voters cited crime as a major problem in New York, while 61% cited it as a very serious problem. The results were the same among all races and nationalities.
Meanwhile, the poll found that 79% of blacks, 73% of Hispanics, and 62% of whites said crime was a major problem in their area. About half of Hispanics said that crime is a “very serious problem” in their community.
The poll also showed that two-thirds of voters said they supported giving judges more leeway when setting bail for defendants charged with serious crimes. This idea was mentioned by Governor Kathy Hochul in her State of the Union address.