Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Skoufis Announces Funding for Newburgh, Changes to Public Safety Laws

The City of Newburgh is among local government agencies to receive new state funding to improve public safety. Today’s announcement came from New York State Senator James Skoufis as he touted a historic state investment, changes to bail reform laws, and changes to the “Red Flag” laws for gun control.

“With violent crime on the rise and more of our neighbors feeling unsafe, lawmakers have an obligation – a duty – to mount an all-hands-on-deck offensive to curb violence in our neighborhoods,” Skoufis said. “I’ve been at the forefront of these changes on behalf of my Hudson Valley constituents.”

Nearly $1 million in funding is being provided to the Cities of Newburgh and Middletown, as well as Orange County, for their participation in New York’s Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative (GIVE) program. This is part of $18 million in funding awarded to law enforcement agencies statewide for their participation in GIVE.

In addition, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Probation Department, and other local police departments will share $858,513 in support of evidence-based strategies that reduce shootings and save lives.

“We must provide law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, period,” Skoufis added. “I’ve long fought to boost funding for our emergency service departments, and this nearly-million-dollar infusion will go a long way toward helping the folks on the ground address community violence in real time.”

In 2019, Skoufis brought the SNUG gun violence prevention program to Newburgh. Since then, he has secured between $200,000 and $250,000 annually in subsequent budgets to keep the program running, which is administered by RECAP.

In addition to the funding, the New York State Legislature recently rushed to pass Skoufis’ bill to expand New York’s “Red Flag” laws. The change allows healthcare and mental healthcare professionals to file court orders when their patients are a clear risk to themselves or others. This was passed in the wake of the Buffalo and Uvalde tragedies just before their session ended for the summer. The “Red Flag” laws are intended to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

Another issue Skofuis worked on was repairing the 2019 bail reform laws. In April of 2022, he announced key fixes which he successfully championed in this year’s adopted budget. The changes include:

  • Repeat petit larceny offenses will now trigger bail-eligibility to ensure alleged criminals are no longer able to steal unabated;
  • A loophole was closed to ensure repeat offenses that occur in between a defendant’s arrest and their arraignment can now be held on bail;
  • Judges may now consider a charge’s danger and a defendant’s criminal history when determining the “least restrictive” means to reasonably ensure a return to court;
  • Hate crimes and possession of a firearm on school grounds will be newly arrest-eligible;
  • A major felony will be triggered once an individual traffics three guns – down from ten;
  • Defacing a firearm or selling one to a minor will be grounds to hold a suspect on bail;
  • Judges will have new discretion to mandate treatment for defendants suffering from mental illness, both ensuring those individuals get the care they need while simultaneously keeping their communities safe.

In March, New York State also announced funding and collaboration between the Office of Mental Health and the State Education Department to improve mental health/trauma services offered in schools. Officials are optimistic that this will help de-escalate tensions in the communities.

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