Oct.31, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Queens Councilmember Robert Holden has introduced legislation aimed at keeping tabs on the mentally ill as a means to combat rising crime. He has also introduced a resolution calling on the state to amend its bail reform laws.
The legislation, introduced by Holden Thursday, consists of one bill and one resolution with the overall goal to improve public safety. Major crime is up 31.5 percent in New York City this year compared to the same time last year, according to police data.
Holden’s bill, Intro 793, would require the city to publish regular reports on the number of mentally ill individuals being referred to for treatment, while Resolution 366 calls on the state to amend its controversial bail laws.
Holden says that some mentally ill individuals are not being treated properly and end up committing crimes. He also believes the state’s sweeping bail reform laws have resulted in career criminals being released back on the streets.
“Our streets and subways are dangerous, with a surge of unprovoked attacks and murders of residents and visitors,” said Holden, who represents the 30th Council District.
Intro 793 would require the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to report on how often people with severe mental illness are referred for treatment in the city’s Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program.
The AOT program mandates outpatient treatment for mentally unstable individuals who may pose a risk to themselves and others. City agencies and hospitals typically refer individuals for treatment and then an order may be handed down in civil court compelling them to get help.
The program was created after the passage of Kendra’s Law in 1999.
If passed, Intro 793 would require DOHMH to report on the number of referrals filed and the number of court orders that result from those referrals. The first report would be made by Feb. 1, 2023, and quarterly thereafter.
The second piece of legislation, Resolution 366, calls on the state to pass a companion bill that has been introduced in both the assembly and senate that would amend New York’s bail laws.
The state legislation calls for judges to have more discretion when setting bail conditions for defendants who may pose a threat to public safety. It would give judges greater authority to hold defendants based on their prior felony convictions, failure to make an appearance in court, or subsequent arrests while awaiting trial.
The state’s 2019 bail reform laws prohibit cash bail for all but the most serious misdemeanors and felonies — although some of the reforms have been rolled back.
The passage of Holden’s council resolution – although not legally binding – would send a strong message to Albany lawmakers.
Holden said his bill and resolution would help curb the spiraling crime numbers.
“Government must utilize Kendra’s Law, repeal bail reform to get career criminals off the streets, and make all New Yorkers safer,” Holden said.