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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-4:56:03A.M.






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OPINION | Crime and non-punishment in NYC

NEW Yorkers who have arrived in the two decades since Rudy Giuliani cleaned up the streets take for granted that they can comfortably take a subway late at night.

But for how much longer? Public order is eroding as the city’s progressive leaders have slammed the brakes on “broken-windows” policing.

Consider 23-year-old subway saboteur Isaiah Thompson, who was arrested last week — for the 18th time. Mr. Thompson was released without bail after being charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespassing for riding outside of a subway car. The so-called “subway surfer” has caused hundreds of train delays over the past two years by pulling emergency brakes.

These are not “victimless crimes” like jay-walking. They have wreaked havoc across the city and disrupted life for thousands of New Yorkers. Yet Mr. Thompson keeps being allowed to walk even though he presents a serious threat to the public.

Last July he slashed the arm of a subway rider whom he said made unwanted eye contact. Five months later he allegedly grabbed a woman on a subway platform and tried to “throw” her, according to the victim. Three times last fall he was arrested for essentially robbing the city by selling unauthorized MetroCard swipes, and he was nabbed in May for riding on the back of a subway car while exposing himself to passengers.

Mr. Giuliani’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton, understood that the erosion of public order creates the conditions for more serious crimes. New Yorkers are beginning to experience the decline resulting from the city council’s decriminalization in 2017 of quality-of-life offenses like public urination and subway hopping.

Arrests dropped 90 percent in the first 16 weeks after the decriminalization law was enacted. Last month the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice touted that jail admissions had dropped 50 percent over the past five years and 20 percent since last year. The rate of incarceration is the lowest since 1978 as more criminals like Mr. Thompson are being allowed to walk.

The most visible results have been dirtier streets and rising public drug use, but things could quickly get worse. In the spring the state Legislature essentially eliminated cash bail, which NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill warned will force police to “release habitual criminals to return to their chronic offenses, whether violent crimes, burglaries, drug trafficking, or grand larcenies.”

Had the law been in effect last year, about 16,000 offenders with prior arrests involving force, weapons or sex offenses would have been released without even being held for arraignment. “Our current low crime levels aren’t a permanent achievement,” Mr. O’Neill noted. “They are a continuing challenge.” Look no further than the subway surfer.