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Public Safety

Decades of defunding healthcare, housing, libraries, and after-school programs has had devastating results. We need to prevent crime, not just react to it. That means investing in defunded programs proven to create true public safety.

Every New Yorker has a right to feel safe, but for too long we’ve let tabloid sensationalism dictate our public safety priorities, not data and community needs. Together, we can change that. In Albany, I’ll make sure we do everything we can to prevent crime before it happens by addressing the root causes that drive it, not relying on the same failed solutions to respond to it after the fact. 

We have the tools to do so. Data shows that crime goes down when people have access to mental health treatment, when their jobs and homes are secure, and when they feel genuinely connected to their community. That should guide our investment in public safety. 

Tailored responses to public safety needs
We are overburdening the police and legal system, turning to them to address too many problems when we have better options at our disposal. Sending the police to respond to mental health crises, for instance, is inappropriate and can even cause further harm, as it did in the tragic killing of teenager Win Rozario in our own backyard. Trained crisis responders should have been sent to Rozario, not armed police officers, and we should expand civilian crisis responders across New York. 

We should also invest in programs that reduce crime long-term by drawing on the strength of our neighborhoods. Community violence interruption programs rely on relationships between neighbors to drive down crime, and have reduced gun violence by as much as 30 percent in cities across the country. New York should expand them. It should also build community hubs, which are staffed by city employees who provide mental health treatment, job readiness programs, housing assistance, and more. 

Meeting Mental Health Needs
We should stop relying on jails to handle acute mental health needs. Over half of the people currently held on Rikers Island have a diagnosable mental health condition, and the jail is now the largest mental health institution in the state. That is not only an injustice, it compounds public safety issues down the line by subjecting people who need support to the horrific conditions inside Rikers. Instead, we should pass the Treatment Not Jail Act, which expands eligibility for mental health and drug court diversion programs for people who need and would benefit from that type of treatment rather than jail.

Treating substance use addiction as a public health need
We must also address the drug crisis in our community. Saving lives is the only way of ensuring that individuals have a chance to address their substance use. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, overdose deaths in New York have spiked to record levels, with over 6,670 deaths in 2022, and numbers from 2023 will likely be even higher. To truly reckon with the overdose epidemic, we must address the full spectrum of needs, beginning with preventing problematic substance use. We must also protect the lives and health of those who use drugs through harm reduction measures, ensuring access to treatment for those ready to address their problematic use through support for those in long term recovery. The Treatment Not Jail Act will provide the infrastructure we need for those supports. 

These services benefit the whole community, including survivors of crime. The overwhelming majority of victims of crime would rather invest in rehabilitation in prevention than longer sentences. We must listen to them. 

Ending Hate Violence
No one should ever have to fear for their personal safety because of their race, religion, gender identity, or country of origin. All our struggles for safety are interlinked. Whether it’s white supremacists peddling anti-semitic conspiracies, attacks on the trans community, or the overpolicing of Black and brown communities, I will always stand with those targeted and persecuted. As a legislator, I will lean on community-based organizations to lead on developing safety plans, use my office to provide educational resources, work with a variety of partners to support survivors of hate, and work to provide restorative opportunities for accountability, healing and growth.

Elder Parole
As an assemblymember, I will actively fight to reduce the prison population. Our current system of mass incarceration persists in part because many incarcerated people are sentenced to unimaginably long sentences, without opportunities for release. Fair and timely Parole, and Elder Parole would provide more incarcerated folks, especially elders, with meaningful opportunities to appear before parole boards and have a chance at earlier release.

Require racial impact statements for legislation 
Black and Latino New Yorkers are dramatically overrepresented in the state’s correctional population. This racially disparate correctional population is unacceptable. I support the Racial and Ethnic Equity Act that would require an impact statement attached to any legislation that could potentially increase the correctional population; create a new offense; change the penalty for an existing offense; change the existing sentencing, parole or probation procedures; increase the child welfare population; or change social service laws as they relate to access to public assistance.