While New York City has dramatically reduced crime since it reached a peak there in the early 1990s, the issue has again become a growing concern for the Big Apple, which has seen a spike in crime since 2019.
Enter the House Judiciary Committee, which held a field hearing in New York on Monday to address the problem.
“Today’s hearing is about the administration of justice, in keeping cities safe, something that is always a central focus of the House Judiciary Committee,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the committee chairman, said in his opening statement.
“In the last few years, police have been villainized and harassed by the Left, and even defunded,” Jordan said. “These men and women put their lives on the line every day, every single day, and they deserve our deepest gratitude. But that’s not what they’re getting from left-wing district attorneys here and around the country.”
The “here” was an oblique reference to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who released a Day One memo shortly after being elected in 2021 saying that he planned on declining to prosecute many serious crimes and reducing the penalties for others.
According to a January report by The New York Times, “surges in robbery, burglary, and other crimes drove a 22 percent increase in overall major crime in New York City last year, compared with the year prior.”
The rising crime trend has continued into 2023, according to the New York Post, which reported in February that “major crime in the Big Apple increased by 4.1% in January with 10,067 complaints compared to the same time last year, when 9,672 of the major seven felonies were recorded, according to NYPD statistics.”
On Saturday, The New York Times reported on how “nearly a third of all shoplifting arrests in New York City last year involved just 327 people.”
Democrats on the committee questioned the motives for the hearing, saying that it was being conducted to defend former President Donald Trump, who was indicted by Bragg and appeared in a New York court for arraignment in early April.
“We are here today in Lower Manhattan for one reason, and one reason only,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. “The chairman is doing the bidding of Donald Trump. The committee Republicans designed this hearing to intimidate and deter the duly elected district attorney of Manhattan from doing the work his constituents elected him to do.”
Yet, here are testimonies from three witnesses who say they and their families have suffered because of the crime problem in New York.
Jose Alba, a former New York City bodega clerk who was arrested and charged by Bragg with murder for stabbing an assailant in self-defense, testified at the hearing.
Last July 1, Alba was assaulted by an ex-convict and the man’s girlfriend in his shop in Manhattan. The assault occurred after the woman demanded potato chips after her credit card was declined. Alba stabbed and killed the man who attacked him. Alba was then arrested, thrown into Rikers Island jail, and was unable to post the $250,000 bail.
In his testimony, Alba said he wasn’t motivated by a “political agenda.”
“My testimony is not motivated by a political agenda,” Alba said through an interpreter. “I am not here because I am supporting Republicans. I am not here because I want to criticize the Democrats. I just want to tell the public about the horrible experience I had to go through because of crime in this city.”
Alba said he feared for his life when he was attacked and that he struck back in self-defense, which was his legal right to do. He said he was nevertheless charged with second-degree murder and asked to pay a large bail, which he couldn’t afford, even though many people in New York “are let go of these days.”
“Even though the charges were ultimately dropped, they should not have been brought up against me to begin with,” he said.
Since the incident, Alba said he hasn’t returned to work because he fears that a gang will retaliate against him.
“My story is one that should not happen again,” he said. “Crime does not discriminate on the basis of a political party. It needs to be addressed by law enforcement on the street and by prosecutors in the court.”
Madeline Brame—the chairwoman of the Victims Rights Reform Council and the mother of an Army veteran, who was a homicide victim in 2018—spoke at the hearing. She said that Bragg went soft on the people who killed her son, Hason Correa, and that the district attorney let the case fall apart.
“Hason was kicked, punched, stomped, and stabbed nine times by four individuals he did not know, nor had he done them any harm,” she said. The four people were apprehended and charged with first-degree gang assault and second-degree murder.
“When Alvin Bragg came into office, he was handed a strong, trial-ready murder case and gang-assault case against all four of these individuals,” she said in her emotional testimony.
She said that as soon as Bragg took the case to trial, it began to “unravel” and that he dismissed the cases against two of the individuals who attacked her son, of which there’s video.
In the case of one of the accused attackers, Mary Saunders, Bragg dismissed her indictment and re-charged her with assault with a shoe “and sentenced her with one year time served,” Brame said.
“Mary Saunders, the savage, is currently walking the streets of Harlem like she didn’t just participate in the brutal slaughter of another human being,” the victim’s mother said.
Brame said people like Saunders and the others who attacked her son aren’t being justly punished in New York and roam free.
“This is the type of criminal element we have walking the streets of New York City on a daily basis,” she said.
Joseph Borgen, who is Jewish, was beaten by a group of people at a pro-Israel rally in Times Square in 2021.
His father, Barry Borgen, spoke about the attack and what he said were the lenient sentences given to his son’s assailants by Bragg.
Borgen said that when he got to the hospital to visit his injured son, he said it was hard to believe what his son looked like.
“His face was beaten. His face was sprayed with mace. They punched him. One fella hit him with crutches in Times Square in broad daylight, all because he was wearing a yarmulke and going to a pro-Israel rally,” he said.
The lifelong New York resident said he’d never before seen anything like that in the city. Despite clear evidence, including film from witnesses, Borgen said this “open-and-shut case” has dragged on for two years with no resolution.
He said one of the accused, Waseem Awawdeh, was offered a “sweetheart deal,” which he hadn’t taken yet, but after being released on probation was dancing with friends and said he would do it again.
“He had no qualms about doing it again, about beating up another Jewish person,” he said.
While out on bail, Borgen said, Awawdeh had a road-rage incident with another man, this one elderly.
“Bragg brought him in again. Nothing,” he said.
In the past few years, there have been numerous attacks on Jews and Asians in New York City with few or no repercussions for the crimes, Borgen said, and the light punishments have encouraged more crimes to be committed.
Borgen briefly spoke about gun control, which was brought up by Democrats and some witnesses at the hearing.
“Everybody’s here with gun control,” he said. “Somehow, the criminals can get guns. The average person in New York can’t get a gun. I just came back from Miami after two weeks. All my friends who moved down there—many, many of my friends—all of them got gun licenses, and there’s a deterrent there that if someone goes after you, there’s a chance that the person attacked can defend themselves.”
In New York, the criminals get guns and law-abiding people can’t, Borgen said.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said.
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