Mayor Bill de Blasio is blaming the state court system for a major drop in arrests amid a citywide spike in violent crimes.
During an appearance on CNN Thursday, de Blasio was asked why NYPD arrests have plummeted even as shootings and some other violent crimes have spiked. He put the blame on COVID-19 and the state’s criminal courts.
“For months, we have not had a functioning court system,” de Blasio said. “The NYPD has a lot of people they are ready, right now, to see prosecuted. But our DAs can’t prosecute because there’s no court system functioning yet. It’s been a massive dislocation and we don’t accept it.”
“We need them prosecuted again,” he added. “That’s the big missing link here because we can’t get them off the street if there’s not prosecution and the court system functioning.”
Office of Court Administration spokesperson Lucian Chalfen said the only “massive dislocation” was de Blasio’s brain from reality.
“The mayor’s continuing narrative regarding the operation of the State Court System throughout the pandemic is at best totally factually incorrect and at worst an attempt to shift the blame for his inability to manage the increase in New York’s street violence,” Chalfen said.
Arrests decreased by 62 percent in the four weeks before July 16 compared to the same time period last year, according to NYPD data. Shootings increased by 210 percent in an overlapping time period, the 28 days before July 12.
Criminal courts have operated remotely since mid-March, with defendants appearing remotely for arraignments until last week. Trials and most hearings remain on hold, but defendants who face those proceedings have already been arrested.
Queens County Bar Association President Clifford Welden said de Blasio’s statements were not grounded in reality.
“Arrests are made before our courts become involved,” said Welden, an attorney with the firm Ferro & Stenz. “For him to say it’s something that courts are doing doesn’t make sense.”
In a July 20 message to court personnel, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said 19,000 defendants have been arraigned in New York City criminal courts since March. New York City criminal courts have handled 34,000 other proceedings during that time period, she said.
“You don’t see numbers like this if our Queens County and other city judges aren’t working,” Welden said. “The mayor needs to read the transcripts of or at least watch the briefings that come from the Chief Judge several times a week.”
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz did not respond to a phone call and email asking for her response to de Blasio’s comments. On Wednesday, Katz announced the takedown of gun traffickers selling illegal firearms in and around Astoria.
The three Queens defendants were arrested and arraigned Tuesday.