Protecting New Yorkers Must Be A Priority

As elected officials, we have a responsibility to keep those we serve safe. It is one of the most basic functions of government and any Legislature that fails to do so is acting in gross negligence of their duty. The Assembly Minority has consistently pushed for a strong and fair criminal justice system that serves everyone’s best interests, yet New York State continues to move in the wrong direction.
 
Recently, the Assembly Majority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have suggested raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, restricting the courts from prosecuting 16-and 17-year olds as adults even for violent felony crimes like Gang Assault and Aggravated Manslaughter of a police officer. Paired with the disgraceful failure to bring Brittany’s Law to the floor for a vote, which would create a registry of violent offenders, the Assembly Majority has many scratching their heads on the issue of public protection.
 
THE DANGERS OF RAISING THE AGE
 
The risks associated with tying the court’s hands are enormous. Trying young adults in Family Court for serious crimes as opposed to Criminal Court will mean those criminal actions will not carry the same consequences for offenders who continue to commit serious crimes. Records that are sealed in Family Court will require judges and prosecutors to treat subsequent crimes as first offenses, even though these offenders may have a history of committing violent crimes. Young adults should be expected to be accountable for their behavior.
 
There have been recent efforts in New York City to expand civil service opportunities for those younger than 18 by allowing them to sit on certain community boards that oversee large budgets. How can we expect so much responsibility from young adults in one aspect of society, yet treat them as children when it comes to serious crimes?
 
BRITTANY’S LAW MUST BE ENACTED INTO LAW
 
The centerpiece of any public protection or criminal justice action should be the enactment of Brittany’s Law. In 2009, 12-year-old Brittany Passalacqua and her mother were murdered by John Edward Brown in Geneva. They did not know he had previously served time for assaulting his infant daughter. Despite bipartisan support in the Assembly and substantial support in the Senate, the Assembly Majority has refused for many years to bring Brittany’s Law to the floor for a vote. The law would create a registry of violent felony offenders that allows community members to be informed about who is living near them and their families. Please take a moment and sign my online petition to demand the passage of Brittany’s Law. The petition can be found at http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Brian-M-Kolb/story/63339.

We have precious few days left in this legislative session and they must be used to pass bills and enact laws that strengthen protections for New Yorkers. We must not wait for more tragedy before we pass legislation that can save lives.
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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