Governor Highlighted State's Public Safety Efforts at First In-Person Symposium in Three Years, Convening More than 800 Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Leaders
New York State To Invest $20 Million for New Technologies for Local Law Enforcement Agencies
Additional $10 Million for up to 5,000 Body Cameras, Storage, Software, and Accompanying Equipment for Police Departments and Sheriffs' Offices
$20 Million in Pretrial Services Funding Distributed to Counties Outside of New York City to Promote Public Safety
Governor Hochul: "I have three messages for all of youFirst of all, know that you have the heartfelt appreciation of the people of the state, starting with your Governor, for your willingness to dedicate yourselves to protecting others and to serving others. And secondly, know that as your Governor, I will assist you in any way possible, and that includes making sure you have the resources, that you have what you need from us to keep New Yorkers safe. And thirdly, you'll never hear the words from me or my administration defund the police. In fact, we are doing the opposite."
Hochul: "In my budget, my very first budget as Governor, I had an opportunity to just put down the marker and say, 'I will make this a priority, making sure that our police service has everything you need' We always have to stay steps ahead of the criminals. This will help solve crimes as well as build trust between communities and their police departments. And I want to make sure that you have the best and the brightest."
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced $50 million in State funding to invest in new technologies and equipment for local law enforcement agencies and support a continuum of pretrial services. Administered by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, $30 million will be dedicated for new technologies and body-worn cameras for local law enforcement agencies, which will help prevent, reduce, and solve crime, as well as build trust within communities. Additionally, $20 million will be allocated to pretrial services in all counties outside of New York City, which will help return more individuals to court by providing them with services and supervision. Governor Hochul made today's announcement at the 2022 DCJS Public Safety Symposium, providing an update on the State's public safety efforts and highlighting $227 million in the State's FY23 Budget to support law enforcement and community-based initiatives to combat gun violence and keep New Yorkers safe.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks are available below:
Good morning. First of all, thank you, Commissioner, for agreeing to be commissioner. You served our state so fantastically as our Secretary of State, but I know you had a passion for this area and I'm delighted that you've accepted. And what an impressive agenda you have. I actually was exhausted reading all the different workshops you're doing, but it just showed the breadth of the issues that all of you have to deal with on such a regular basis. So, I'm grateful that we have this chance to work together. And you know, this on your second day, it's very intense. I mean, the issues that you're encountering, not just here but out on the streets are intense, and they're very different, I'm going to guess, from when you first were trained in your profession, whether you are frontline law enforcement, or you're in the parole system, or criminal justice system, or the thousand other ways that we all touch the ability to keep the public safe.
So, I have three messages for all of you, and I know the majority of you are law enforcement professionals. Three messages of this. First of all, know that you have the heartfelt appreciation of the people of the state, starting with your Governor, for your willingness to dedicate yourselves to protecting others and to serving others. And secondly, know that as your Governor, I will assist you in any way possible, and that includes making sure you have the resources, that you have what you need from us to keep New Yorkers safe. And thirdly, you'll never hear the words from me or my administration defund the police. In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are absolutely doing the opposite, making sure that you have what you need. And it's evidenced by our budget, which is an historic amount of money dedicated to the work that you're doing.
And also, I do recognize that the entire criminal justice system is one ecosystem where all the parts have to be in concert with each other. That's how we are successful. Each of you play a unique role and important role, but as we approach this, I, as Governor, am able to look at this 10,000-foot view, and to see the areas where there's vulnerabilities and more help needs to be undertaken. And that's why I've worked closely with my team day to day. Every single day, we talk about some facet of the system that needs to be improved. All of us agree with that. We want to make sure that all citizens are safe and feel safe. So, I've taken a very different approach, and maybe it comes from the fact that I spent 14 years in local government. One of my responsibilities was to interview and hire a police department, working with my colleagues on the town board, selecting a caliber of person that I thought could be a Chief of Police. Someone - Carmen Kesner, for example, from the Town of Hamburg. Someone who was just an outstanding, outstanding public servant.
So, I was very involved in understanding what we needed in that role. I also stood on this stage countless times as Lieutenant Governor and had the opportunity to welcome and send off our recruits from our police academy at the New York State Police, and I could see in their faces this, obviously they're very nervous at the time, but this sense of possibility and the sense of wanting to do good for others. It was that - I could see it in their eyes. All they wanted to do was go through the grueling exercises of being trained in law enforcement, but being out there on the streets and helping their fellow men and women in their time of need. And I've always been impressed. I walk off this stage. I just feel this great sense of pride to be Governor in a state where people care so deeply about each other.
But I know that the work has gotten so much harder, even since the first class I spoke to back in 2015. It has gotten so much harder. And the pandemic has exacerbated all of society's problems. And in law enforcement, you're the ones who see the effects of that. You see the effects of a mental health system that is not doing everything it can and not being as successful as it needs to be. The social services system that is under challenge, and the effect is a lot of people choose a path of crime or an incident of crime for various reasons, but underlying at all, the police officers and those who are in the whole system need to be able to do the right thing. And that is to prevent crimes, but also then to ultimately solve the crimes.
But we had shuttered social services. People were disconnected from their normal way of life, whether it was seeing a drug counselor, a therapist, a mental health provider. They were disconnected. And in that time, and sociologists will think about this for years to come, I'm sure of it - you know, what really happened to the human condition where we went from having a crime rate back in 2018, 2019, where if you ask people their concerns, I'm not even sure they would've said crime. And we were in a very stable place, especially those of us who are older, remember what it was like in the '70s, '80s and '90s. And so, we had challenges. Always have, always will. But crime was not top of mind so much just a few short years ago. And intervening - what changed?
Well, nationwide, there has been phenomenon that we all recognize, and crime has gone up, and the pandemic was truly at the center of that phenomenon. So, we also saw something else that we're still peeling back and realizing the impact it's had on our system overall is that the court system, the New York State Court system, was almost brought to its knees. You think about the fact that jury trials because the Office of Court Administration determined that everybody in a jury had to sit six feet apart or you couldn't convene. There were no jury trials for a very, very long time. Now we've tried to fix that. We had to push hard to get those changes when I first became Governor a year ago, but now we're still dealing with the effects of that. The backlog is incredible. Processing times are now over a hundred days on average. Violent felony cases can take up to a year. And that is not acceptable and that has put tremendous pressure in the system. And because of that, crimes go unsolved. People who are perpetrators to crimes are not brought to justice and it's put a strain on the courts themselves.
But in the meantime, we have to fix that. And to assist, today I'm here to announce that we have $20 million of investment to support pretrial services outside of New York City to ensure that people who are released return to court, receive the supervision and the services, if any, that they need. And this is crucial because that has been a missing gap, those support services during pretrial to make sure that people stay on the right path during that time. And these award letters will be sent to the counties as early as tomorrow. So, they'll be aware of what we're able to allocate for them. So, we have to continue making sure that we break down silos as well. And I know a little bit about silos. My husband was a federal prosecutor. In fact, my son's now a federal prosecutor. My husband was a federal prosecutor for 30 years and worked on organized crime cases in the City of Buffalo, brought down some gangs using some very innovative techniques related to RICO laws usually used for prosecuting organized crime. We used them for the first time in the nation against organized gangs and was successful in taking down groups that had been terrorizing my hometown of Buffalo in the early '90s. And eventually the crime rate dropped amazingly.
But what happened was they had a breakthrough, what had been institutional silos. And I know you all know what I'm talking about. It happens in all professions, but people get territorial. You have local, you have state, and you have the federal government. All of them are on the same page with the objective. But if they're not willing to collaborate, share leads, work together on a prosecution or a big bust, and then ultimately share in the numbers because everyone's judged by how many numbers, how many individuals they can account for, then we don't have a system that's working as finally healed as it should be. I have brought that message to cities across the state - New York City, Syracuse, Rochester. I've done convenings.
The Marshals, the ATF, FBI, bringing them to work in concert, and knowing the power they have with even more stringent laws on illegal guns. Any gun that comes in a crime in the State of New York is very likely to have crossed a state line to get here, meaning that there is a federal nexus, meaning that it could be a federal crime, and there are minimum sentences for gun laws at the federal level. But if that system is working in concert with the local DAs and the local police officers, then you're on the same page and focusing on a common objective, which is to eliminate crime in our cities and our streets and our suburbs, and our rural areas.
So, that is what I'm hoping we can continue. I've been the convener and the person at the top saying, "Make this happen, it has to happen," and we're starting to see sleeves being rolled up and more work. And I know in other areas it's already gone successfully, and I commend those of you who've already had that level of cooperation. But that's what I'm going to continue pressing for. I'm that hands-on in wanting to see results and making sure that we leave no stone unturned. But we continue to deal with other issues related to recruitment. It's hard, we're going to be having more classes of State Police recruits. I'm going to be making sure that we have the opportunity. We also have to go out there and talk about the nobility. The nobility of this form of service to others where you've literally, as the Bible says, been willing to lay down your life for others. And I want people to understand the power behind that, and the decisions that are behind that, and how we have to respect that more than people have felt has been the case for a long, long time. So, that is why I'm going to continue focusing on that as well.
And in my budget, my very first budget as Governor, had an opportunity to just put down the marker and say, "I will make this a priority, making sure that our police service has everything you need." And we put $227 million, that is the largest investment in public safety in a generation. It was the right thing to do. And as part of that funding, today I'm here to announce another $30 million. $30 million to support local law enforcement and invest in new technologies. We always have to stay steps ahead of the criminals. This will help solve crimes as well as build trust between communities and their police departments. And I want to make sure that you have the best and the brightest. License plate readers, the body cams, the gunshot detection devices, fixed and mobile cameras, robotics, drones, whatever you need to help us with our hotspot policing, which is what really makes a difference when you think about it. It's about being targeted.
It's about saying, "We know this zip code. We know how to watch this. We know where we can put cameras, we know we can put license plate readers." That is how hands-on all of you can be with the resources that we're happy to announce here today, another $30 million.
So also, the scariest thing for most people are guns, gun violence, gun violence. And I've studied the national trends. Very curious to see what's going on across the nation, and how we stack up in that space. We know that there is a nationwide gun crisis inflicting trauma on so many communities. I've traveled every corner of the state. More recently, I had to be with our Buffalo Police Commissioner, who is just an exceptional person. I don't know if he's in the room, I think he spoke yesterday. But the trauma that my hometown went through with a mass shooting of people simply going to a grocery store on a bright sunny afternoon on a Saturday in Buffalo 10 minutes from my home, literally 10 minutes from where Bill and I live. And I've been back many, many, many times, and the trauma of that is still real. People are still, in some cases, afraid to go to a grocery store because you don't if it'll happen again. So entire communities are paralyzed, and we're also giving money to communities that are affected by gun violence so they can have the resources to help people feel more comfortable in their existence when they've had to deal with not just the mass shootings, but also the day to day shootings, which are so traumatic.
So, a day hasn't gone by where we're not pushing hard. That is my continued commitment. But also, we've had to do a lot to help you - banning ghost guns, for example, my gosh. To think that someone in the State of New York could literally order online a gun, assemble it, and have that be legal in our state - well, no longer. I signed that last year, last October to make sure that it's getting those go ghost guns off the streets is important. I also realize where are the guns coming from? We're not making them here. Where are the guns coming from? The pipeline. Some of it's, you know, the Iron Pipeline up the 95 corridor. I see an awful lot coming in from Pennsylvania, the gun shows. I see people in our state being willing to travel down Route 81, go to a gun show, open up the trunk, load it up, and come back to our borders, and either go straight up to Syracuse on 81 or head over to the Bronx in the City of New York.
So, we watch the trends. We know where they're coming from. What has struck me, it was last January when I said, "Why aren't we doing more with the other states that they're traveling through?" They know what's going on. They see things. And so, for the first time in our nation's history, there has been a convening of nine states that I brought together. We meet regularly. I've been to many of their meetings, and these are the top law enforcement individuals in those areas, as well as the City's NYPD has been a great partner, Boston PD, as well as nine states. And we are working together and sharing information. This intelligence sharing - the collection and sharing of - has really made a big difference. And so, I'm proud of those who've come together.
Thus far, we've seized over 7,000 guns year to date. It's a start. It's not everything, we have more to do, but we know that that is one approach to take to that. We also, as I mentioned, the Buffalo situation, I had to go back to the legislature and say, "We have some loopholes in our laws." I mean, first of all, what is an 18-year-old doing being able to buy an AR-15? No longer. We said you have to be 21. You have to be an adult. You have to go through background checks. You have to make sure that we don't see in a background check that you've already sent messages - I know one of your sessions was on social media, social media monitoring.
We certainly, when all of you were starting out in your profession, you didn't have to worry about social media, but you see what happened in Buffalo. That shooter literally telegraphed his intent, everything he was going to do. He based it on what he had been radicalized and understood to have happened at the Christchurch Massacre in New Zealand. He almost parodied that verbatim. And he, in a manifesto, put out exactly what his intent was, all on social media all out there. So, I've had to speak to some of those organizations, but that's another whole side that deals with privacy and other federal laws. But I will do what I can in our space, which is to be able to examine that when we're doing our background checks.
As I mentioned, we're doing much more on our community-based strategies as well. Our SNUG programs, our street outreach, getting people, and I've met many of these groups from the boroughs all the way up to Buffalo, sitting down with them and saying, many of them understand the streets better than certainly I ever will because they've lived them. Some of them have taken the wrong path, and they saw how they got there, and they have a powerful lesson to share to other young people, in particular young people who have given up hope, young people who already believe that they're going to be dead by the time they're 25, so what difference does it make?
They can approach those people. They can be the trusted messengers. So, we need to continue funding them and ramping them up because they are amazing partners for all of you to identify people who can be helpful, get a message out, as well as identify perpetrators in a community, which is also critically important. So, that's why we increased our funding for the SNUG Programs, the anti-gun violence programs up another $20 million. $15 million for gun violence prevention staff and all these other — I have all kinds of numbers, if you want to look at our budget. But that's more than just talk. It's not me standing here saying, "I'm committed to this." It's also about saying, "Okay, and here's the numbers that means money back to your communities." So, what have we done in the last year? Again, I watch the numbers like a hawk. I'm either watching pandemic numbers, COVID rates, polio rates, monkeypox rates, and I'm also watching the gun rates, because, we have to be data driven as well. Compared to last year — and last year was a very bad year — because of your efforts, and I applaud you, every one of you, shootings across the State of New York are down 10 percent from one year ago.
And we're outpacing the rest of the country — as you know, this is a national phenomenon, the gun violence national phenomenon — we are outpacing the country, where on average across America, the drop is only 2 percent. 2 percent. And let me just tell you some of the numbers around the state because they're quite interesting: Shootings are down 13 percent in New York City, down 11 percent in places like Mount Vernon, down 21 percent on Long Island, down 21 percent in Utica, down 27 percent in Yonkers, and many other cities we're watching as well. But I found so interesting, even with the inclusion of the 10 people shot in that horrific massacre in Buffalo, shootings in Buffalo are still down 36 percent. That's extraordinary. That's extraordinary. And so I, of course, I'm saying, "Well, let's see what they're doing in Buffalo." Are they sharing that practice? I know it's very targeted. They know exactly where they need to go and they're doing a great job.
But you know, when it comes to the story of our fight against gun violence here in New York, new chapters are being written every single day. And there's a lot of pain associated with it and a lot of angst, and you see horrific things out in the streets. And again, I just hope that you get the support and the services you need. I saw that some of your workshops dealt with that. I mean, let's just acknowledge, every one of you is a human being. And what you have to see sometimes or hear about, and just the times I've had to hold people who've lost a loved one and the pain is so palpable. And as another human being, you're affected by that. And all of you must see and feel that at different levels in your jobs with regularity. And I want you to know that we want you to get help and support and comfort to help you carry on through your lives as well, because we care about all of you. We truly, truly do.
So, I will tell you this: We'll continue confronting this crisis head on. I will never stand here and say, "Never spike a football." I'm a Buffalo Bills fan. I know, you're only as good as the last game. We're going to be better next time. I guarantee that. Get rid of those injuries, we've got to get everybody healthy. Don't get me into my Buffalo Bills analysis. But I do see the endzone. I do see that, that we can restore people's confidence, restore public safety, restore that sense of wellbeing that is so important to me that people have. And I am going to remain committed as your Governor to focus on this with 100 percent attention, support all of you, and ultimately, we'll get closer to the endzone and make sure that people know that this is a state - again, we're comparing ourselves to other states, but that doesn't matter to me. It's what's happening in the State of New York. And I commend you. I commend every one of you for the work that you're doing, and we will get through this together. Again, thank you so much.