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In key congressional election year, Hochul touts crime-fighting achievements

Gov. Kathy Hochul views illegal guns seized in recent raids at the state police Troop G headquarters in Latham on March 4, 2024.
Karen DeWitt
New York Public News Network
Gov. Kathy Hochul views illegal guns seized in recent raids at the state police Troop G headquarters in Latham on March 4, 2024.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced progress that she said she’s made on combating crime, including illegal guns and car thefts. 

Her remarks come as members of Congress and the State Legislature are up for election and crime continues to be a public concern.

Hochul said State Police have increased the number of illegal gun seizures by 160% since 2021, and 1,443 weapons were confiscated in 2023.

She said red flag orders — where a judge temporarily takes away weapons from someone deemed to be a potential danger to themselves or others — have also increased since the law was strengthened in 2022. She said so far this year, 290 red flag orders were issued, and over 590 guns were taken.

Hochul took aim at the more progressive members of her Democratic Party, saying she has never been against adding more resources to fight crime.

“At a time when others were recklessly calling for defunding the police, I actually increased funding,” Hochul said. “And we delivered results.”

The governor said she also used the gun seizure program as a model to crack down on the spate of auto thefts in western New York. She said as a result, car thefts are down about 50% in Rochester and Buffalo. And Hochul has proposed in her state budget new powers for law enforcement to battle organized retail theft.

While the state’s crime rate is down from a pandemic-era high, New Yorkers continue to say in polls that crime is among their top issues of concern.

Hochul is not up for reelection until 2026, but Democrats and Republicans are battling for key congressional seats that will be on the ballot in November.

She blamed her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for the passage of the controversial 2019 bail reform law. Hochul has revised the law to add more bail-eligible crimes back. Cuomo resigned in 2021 over multiple scandals.

“I was being, I guess, blamed for policies that were put in place by my predecessor, related to stripping away a lot of the protections of our bail laws under the guise of reform,” Hochul said. “I'm the one who in 2022, had to push the Legislature beyond where they ever wanted to go, and rolling back some of them. After that, recidivism went down over 40%.”

She said she insisted last year that judges once again be given more discretion to set bail for certain felony offenses. She said she plans to meet with the state Office of Court Administration soon to make sure that judges understand the changes.

Hochul’s 2022 opponent, former Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, made the bail reform laws a top campaign issue. Hochul’s narrower-than-expected win that year has been partially attributed to Zeldin’s success in making concerns about crime a chief topic of the race.

Hochul said while the crime rate is dropping, she intends to increase funding for State Police and be vigilant about trying to further reduce crime, including on the New York City subways.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.