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One Data Point Helps Explain Why Crime Has Spiked in Democrat Cities

Newly-released official data suggested that New York’s progressive bail reform law increased rearrest rates — and probably overall crime.


Democratic bail reform across the country may be an underappreciated driver of the crime surge.


The statistics from New York, belatedly published last week by the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services, showed that after bail reform went into effect at the start of 2020, ending cash bail for all misdemeanors and many felonies, the percentage of offenders rearrested for a new crime while awaiting trial jumped 7.5% compared to 2019.

That means there were around 5,300 more pretrial rearrests statewide in 2020 than there would have been if the rearrest rate had not increased year-over-year.

  • The jump in the rearrest rate overlapped with — but predated — the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency release of thousands of prisoners in April 2020, wrote the Manhattan Institute’s Charles Fain Lehman in an an analysis of the data.
  • The rate moderated after the New York State Assembly rolled back some of the reforms in April 2020 by allowing judges to set cash bail for a wider range of offenses, but Lehman predicted a “durable increase” of 5-9 percentage points.


New York’s bail reform has been at the center of a national political debate: Liberals argue that cash bail should be abolished because it discriminates against the poor and minorities, while conservatives say it keeps dangerous criminals off the street and deters new offenses.

  • A number of mostly Democrat-run states and municipalities have limited the use of cash bail to varying degrees — among them New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
  • Bail reform advocates have touted a new study of the Houston area that found ending cash bail for misdemeanors, but not felonies, reduced the jail population with no increase in rearrests over a three-year period.
  • However, previous research has shown similar reforms led to higher rate rates of rearrest during pretrial release in San Francisco and Chicago — where about one in six offenders have committed a new violent crime on pretrial release in recent years.


Criminal justice reformers have noted the nationwide crime surge since 2020 has not been confined to places that limited the use of cash bail, but New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said he’s convinced bail reform is a major cause of his city’s crime woes.

  • “Our criminal justice system is insane,” Adams said last month at a press conference, where he demanded another round of changes to the 2019 law. “It is dangerous, it is harmful and it’s destroying the fabric of our city. Time and time again, our police officers are making arrests and then the person who is arrested for assault, felonious assaults and gun possession is finding themselves back on the streets within days, if not hours.”