As former president Donald Trump’s trial continues in a Manhattan criminal court, many anticipate that it will be both historic and salacious—and it seems to be delivering on both counts. For New York City, though, it will also prove costly and time-consuming.

One of the greatest costs involves security. While New York apparently lacks the resources to police its streets, security for this hush-money trial will cost the city $50,000 per day. Ramped up security for the trial includes road closures, a frozen perimeter, two magnetometers, bomb-sniffing dogs, barricades, increased police presence, overtime pay for security guards, a mobile command center, and a “massive intelligence hub.” Not everyone is complaining. One security guard welcomes the overtime: “‘I’m fine if they want to pay me extra. I get to protect the 47th president of the United States.’”

Trump’s trial will also be time-consuming. Some estimate that it will run for six to eight weeks of “embarrassing evidence.” This stands in stark contrast to the many New York criminal cases summarily plea bargained. Out of 18,478 cases, 15,053 were plea bargained. In 2019, 96 percent of New York’s felony convictions and 99 percent of misdemeanor convictions stemmed from guilty pleas. Such unbridled plea bargaining “severely weakens the integrity of the justice system,” says a new report from the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

It’s indefensible that New York is devoting so much time and expense to the Trump trial even as dangerous crimes go unprosecuted. Criminals roam the streets with little fear of facing jail time. Manhattan’s crime clearance rate is an abysmal 29.8 percent. In 2019, New York’s 104,879 felony arrests resulted in only 5,049 prison sentences, an imprisonment rate of less than 5 percent. Manhattan’s percentage is even worse. In 2019, 57,143 Manhattan felony arrests resulted in only 1,599 prison sentences, an imprisonment rate of less than 3 percent.

More disturbing is the fact that New York’s dangerous criminals are set free time and again. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg is more interested in chasing political clout than doing his job. Two-thirds of persons released without bail with a recent prior arrest were subsequently rearrested within two years. Between January and May in 2023, a mere 250 people accounted for 2,500 arrests; 70 percent of the arrestees were repeat offenders. As my colleague Hannah E. Myers recently reported, recidivism is at its highest rate since 2017.

Recent news stories highlight this uptick in career criminals on the streets. Dantay Moore, who fatally stabbed a 63-year-old grandmother, had 15 prior convictions, yet was let out on the streets to kill.

This April, Alvin Doris tried to steal money and a cellphone from two kids at the Broadway/Lafayette train station. He punched the 11-year-old and broke his nose. Doris has nine prior arrests, including four previous assault charges, but he was free to wander the streets.

On a Monday this past January, Rakeem Washington stole a subway passenger’s cellphone, was arrested, and was released without bail. On Friday of that same week, he attempted to rob another passenger by threatening him with a boxcutter. Washington’s criminal history is extensive, with prior arrests for assault robbery, attempted robbery, and aggravated harassment.

Nicole Gelinas reports that this past February, New York City subways saw “76 serious violent crimes: two murders, one rape, 38 robberies and 35 assaults.” Over the past 14 months, the city has also seen a 72 percent rise in stabbings of police officers.

Bragg’s waste of resources in pursuit of Trump undermines the rule of law, erodes confidence in the justice system, and delays justice for real victims. New York courts are notoriously backlogged, with more than 453,000 pending cases. Some attribute this glut to a shortage of judges and prosecutors. But what about a six- to eight-week political show trial?

Victims are tired of waiting for justice. In 2019, 70,000 violent crimes were reported in New York state, yet only 6,140 victims were awarded compensation. A medic was involved in a road-rage incident when the driver in front of her left his car, approached her, and smashed her in the face with a carjack, breaking most of the molars on the left side of her face. Her claims for compensation were denied when the Office of Victim Services said that it couldn’t verify that her assailant had caused her dental injuries.

These are just some of the citizens denied justice, even as a politically motivated and costly trial proceeds. Bragg is so desperate to “get Trump” that he has abandoned the New Yorkers he was elected to serve.

Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images


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