HORNELL, NY (WETM) – There is a common phrase local law enforcement keeps repeating, “we are handcuffed.” They are releasing with only an appearance ticket shortly after an arrest knowing full well that they are just going to break the law again.
They know this because the alleged criminals are telling them.
“There were individuals there that were using heroin on a regular basis the needles were right there, they were using heroin and it had fentanyl in it, and they were getting it from Rochester and at the end of the day, because of the law we just released these people and the girl on the way out the door said I’ve got to hurry, I’ve got to get up to Rochester, to get more heroin, because I’m getting sick, and it’s sad, but it’s like… okay,” said Hornell Police Chief Murray.
This was after the Hornell police had a search warrant for those “individual’s” home and found needle and drug in the home.
Murray is worried not only for the safety of the public but for those who are getting arrested. Before the bail reform, people arrested for drug use or even with mental health would be able to get treatment if they could hold them in either jail or a hospital facility.
This system of catch and release is becoming common all over the twin tier region.
A state police investigator said that they caught a man stealing from a Walmart and trading his loot for drugs. That man had to be released given only an appearance ticket. After released that man went on to steal a car escalating his crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Another person Murray arrested had several warrants out for his arrest but knew that he would be released so kept on stealing.
“Upon arresting him on it and investigating it we found out that since the first of the year he has been arrested seven times at different locations and had been released each time,” Murray said. “He knew the law and knew that he had to be released and he was pretty gratuitous about saying, ‘hey, yeah I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but I know that I’ve got to be released, so, hey.”
And the warrants are starting to stack up. People are not showing up for the court dates and Murray believes some of that has to do with the bail reform. The incentive to come back has been stripped away with the reform. Murray said that he doesn’t have the exact numbers of how many people fail to show up for their court dates but said that warrants for those individuals arrests have doubled compared to last year.
Tracking down people can be expensive, and when another county or even state captures a person who has a warrant for their arrest, to price to get them back can be a steep one.
“It costs us money to send officers there and if it happened’s to be a female we have to send two officers if we don’t have a female officer available and the cost of getting them in the back to the area bringing them for arraignment and then chances are that they are going to be released at the arraignment and it starts the whole process over again so it’s very frustrating and it’s not very cost-effective for us as a municipality,” Murray explained.
Even the Sheriff’s department in Steuben county had to fork over a large sum to retrieve an individual with little payoff.
Sheriff Allard shared that he had to send two of his deputies to Indiana in order to retrieve a suspect that had several warrants out for his arrest. When they brought him back the judge had to release him again sighting that the new law requires judges to apply the most lenient sentence.
This process combined with having to pay officers’ overtime due to an increase of paperwork, also included in the reform, is costing these departments greatly.