Hudson County officials want changes to bail reform law to keep dangerous criminals locked up

JERSEY CITY -

Some law enforcement officials in Hudson County say they would like to see some changes made to New Jersey’s bail reform law after dozens of criminals were released back onto the streets.

Officials say illegal gun arrests and seizures have been on the rise in Jersey City and that police officers are at risk. City leaders say that more than half of the 84 people arrested for gun possession this year were immediately released back onto the street.

“Every single one of those is an opportunity for a tragedy between the police officer and the young men carrying the weapon,” says Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea.

The bail reform law went into effect Jan. 1, 2017. The bill eliminates monetary bail for money crimes. Only suspects charged with murder, or any crime connected to a life sentence, are automatically detained. Hudson County officials say that illegal gun possession needs to be added to that list.

“It’s not uncommon for us to effectuate arrests and the defendants, the criminals, are taunting our detectives and Jersey City police saying ‘Oh I’ll be out by the end of the day and I’ll be back on the street tomorrow,’ and you know what, they're right,” says Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

Suarez says that she does not consider bail reform a failure because it is preventing people charged with minor crimes from being in jail and unable to pay bail. But she says that it does have issues that need to be addressed.

“Can someone be released for a sexual assault? Yeah, and it happens,” Suarez says.

A bill has been introduced to add illegal gun possession to the list of crimes to guarantee detainment. But some lawmakers say that they want to take more time to evaluate bail reform before making changes.

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