By Joseph D’Andrea
Mayor Marvin Natiss took aim at state bail reform legislation in response to concerns about crime in North Hills during the town’s village hall meeting Wednesday.
“Fortunately we haven’t had that many burglaries,” said Natiss. “But even one is too many. The real issue is bail reform because [the people who broke into The Links] were caught, and were out the next day.”
Natiss’ responded to questions raised by Leonard Licari, speaking on behalf of the Gracewood Community, which experienced a recent burglary that was similar to ones in the Ritz-Carlton Residences and The Links.
“I think we need to think outside of the box in order to harden our defenses, so to speak,” Licari said. “You’re the leaders of our community—what can we do?”
Since bail reform is a state issue, the mayor said, “my friends who are judges in the district court no longer have judicial discretion if somebody has [several prior convictions]. If it’s not a violent crime, he has to let them walk without bail.”
Natiss called on the police to provide more coverage of communities hit by burglaries and said bail reform has been left to the perception of law enforcement.
“[The police] are short-handed to begin with,” he said. “And because of bail reform, there is less respect for the police and more [officers] are retiring early. It’s a sad state of affairs in my humble opinion.”
The state eliminated cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies at the end of 2019. The Legislature approved changes to give judges more discretion in the spring of 2020 and again in 2022.
Nassau County saw crime soar 41% in 2022 driven by property crimes. The rate exceeded both Suffolk County, which recorded a 15% rise and New York City, which had a 22% increase.
Studies conducted by the state and news media companies have concluded that bail reform has not been a significant cause of the rise of crime in New York in the past two years.
Natiss said creating a village police department would be too costly to taxpayers. He went on to outline the existing security additions that have been made to reduce the few incidents that occur in these communities.
“[The Links’ board] approved exterior lighting, so from the top of all of the units, there are now floodlights going down into the backyards of all of the homes,” he said. “We would not have a problem giving [Gracewood] a higher fence, as long as it doesn’t have barbed wire.” In addition to lighting, the board has worked on a guide of Nassau County’s crime prevention tips for town presidents, encouraging a distribution of the information to residents.
The mayor said he would personally engage with the commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, Patrick Ryder, as well as the County Executive Bruce Blakeman, to address these issues.
“Anything you want to do within your community,” Natiss told Licari, “you have this board’s cooperation. We want to keep this community safe.”
Lisa Rosario, the property manager at Gracewood, continued the discussion of community break-ins, once again prompting Natiss to question whether the bigger concern is one of tougher security or that of bail reform.
“Even if [these burglars] get caught and are arrested, they walk out the next day—sometimes the same day,” Natiss said. “When you talk to the state about amending the bail reform act, it falls on deaf ears. Most of the [monthly police reports I receive] are automobile accidents, and thank goodness in North Hills, very few carjackings, car thefts, and burglaries. We’ll continue to monitor and assist anywhere we can.”
Due to insufficient notice, the village board of trustees voted unanimously to continue the public hearing of the Greater New York Corporation of Seventh Day Adventists, to February 15, 2023, at 7:30 pm.
Cooperative “ayes” also approved the board’s financial business as well as “fire protection and emergency ambulance services for certain portions of the Village not located within a fire district” for 2023.
The board also provided an update on the village’s shuttle bus service, which was described as becoming more efficient in the past few months, though still falling behind since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.