Some local lawmakers say bail reform is not behind city violence

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester has hit a record high of 81 homicides, but some local lawmakers say bail reform is not a factor in the uptick in violence.

"The bail reform measure that we passed into law which I proudly voted for is not the cause of violence in our streets,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson during a recent anti-violence press conference.

State lawmakers here in Rochester are giving nearly $5 million worth of funding to about 10 community organizations around the city to help curb violence. Those organizations include the Urban League of Rochester, Rochester Works, Center For Teen Empowerment, M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, PathStone Foundation, ABC Save Our Youth, Rise Up Rochester, Roc the Peace and a few more. Funding will help continue their violence intervention work on the ground.

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police proposed legislation to modify state laws regarding bail reform. Here locally, some of the local state representatives say they do not believe that is the ultimate answer, but they agree violence in the city is a problem.

"There are cities across this country that are seeing the exact same kind of increases, significant increases in the level of violence, the level of homicides…they do not have bail reform. There were no changes in their bail system, yet they’re seeing the same kind of increases,” Bronson said.

During that anti-violence press conference, lawmakers pointed out the problems they feel the city is facing, such as poverty, unrepresented individuals and more.

"We want to see a community where our young people understand conflict resolution,and that the solution is not the use of a gun,” Bronson said.

"Look at the war on drugs – how it has affected our community. What we see in this community is a direct effect of such practices,” Assemblyman Desmond Meeks added.

In criminal cases now, judges are prohibited from setting bail for misdemeanors and for any but the most serious violent felonies. The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police is calling for no cash bail , but for judges to be able to consider how dangerous suspects are and have the discretion to lock them up. During a media briefing last week, Governor Kathy Hochul said her office is looking at bail reform policy options.

"It is a conversation I’ve had with legislative leaders. Our main focus is public safety and protecting people where they live and finding all the opportunities to do that and make sure it makes sense,” Hochul said.

Assemblyman Bronson said his team will be talking with law enforcement for help on potential changes to legislation.