By Frank Quinn
Village residents are invited to 6th Precinct Community Council meetings on the last Wednesday of each month. Meetings begin with a report from Deputy Inspector Robert O’Hare, followed by a speakers list and Q&A. There’s a distinctly local vibe at the meetings, where police refer to offenders by first name, and you may hear something intimate about an otherwise impersonal situation.
After attending regularly for about a year, this writer was disappointed by the generally low attendance. But 2020 began with a well-attended meeting reviewing New York’s bail reform law. Many residents became aware of this new law late in 2019 when judges began implementing it, but it’s been discussed at 6th Precinct meetings since last spring when it was signed. Back then polls showed that 55 percent of New Yorkers supported it, but a recent poll indicates 59 percent are now opposed.
Law enforcement professionals argue that the reforms decrease public safety because judges no longer have discretion to keep violent and repeat offenders off the streets. But advocates say cash bail unfairly incarcerates poor people accused of crimes when those with money can buy their freedom. Eliza Orlins, a NYC public defender and local resident, spoke about how her clients feel they’re presumed guilty when accused of a crime because they can’t afford cash bail. She described how a three-day stay in jail can lead to the destabilization of a person’s life— they can lose their apartment or their job, or a single parent might lose their child. These clients often plead guilty just to avoid jail.
That description contrasts with the case of Anthony Manson, recently arrested in Greenwich Village. Records show he’s been arrested 75 times since 1991, with two stints in prison. Two days before Christmas Manson was busted for three burglaries he allegedly committed in Brooklyn but was released on Christmas Day due to the new law. He was arrested on January 3rd in two more break-ins. Prosecutors sought to have him held on $15,000 bail during his January 4th arraignment but he was freed on supervised release. According to court papers, early on January 15th Manson was found inside Center Stage Optique at 45 Seventh Avenue, where he had smashed the door, with a suitcase filled with $3,995 worth of sunglasses and a rock. “And he hit me again when we got him again,” said Commander O’Hare. Manson was arraigned the next day but released again without bail.
While people had strong views on both sides, there was a productive and respectful discussion at the council meeting. Commander O’Hare reported that the 6th Precinct was one of only two precincts in Manhattan South below 59th Street that had a decrease in burglaries and robberies in 2019. But, unfortunately, “we’re trending the wrong way” according to Commander O’Hare, as those numbers are rising in the first months of 2020.
To receive email about future 6th Precinct meetings, send your info to 6thpctcommunitycouncil@gmail.