Robbing a store with a knife or gun has again become a felony in Manhattan.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, on Friday issued a memo changing two policies derided as soft on crime, according to the New York Post.
“A commercial robbery at knifepoint, or by other weapon that creates a risk of physical harm, will be charged as a felony,” he wrote in the memo.
“The default in gun cases is a felony prosecution,” Bragg wrote, adding that anyone robbing a store with a gun “will be charged as a felony, whether or not the gun is operable, loaded, or a realistic imitation.”
Previously, criminals who used a knife or gun to rob commercial businesses weren’t charged with felonies.
Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said in a statement that Bragg’s memo illustrates the extent to which the DA’s office office has lost its way.
“The fact that a district attorney had to send out a new memo stating that armed robbery will NOW be charged as a felony is almost as scary as the crime crisis he’s supposed to (be) fighting,” DiGiacomo said.
“The fact is, Detectives and law abiding New Yorkers have no confidence in DA Bragg. The criminals seem to love him.”
A directive Bragg issued when he took office said that when armed robbers victimized a business, as long as no victims were seriously injured, the robbers should only be prosecuted for petty larceny, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the New York Post.
Armed robbery convictions typically would bring as much as 25 years in prison.
The policy produced a rise in businesses being robbed.
“This is very bad for this neighborhood,” said Modou Wade, owner of Bakh Yaye, a clothing and food store in Harlem, according to the Post.
“Every day they come in with a knife and say give me something! It is a ridiculous area. If it gets worse I will have to close.”
Bragg characterized his new memo as providing “clarity” to his original instructions.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the change was overdue.
“We hope this updated memo filters down to the streets the way the first one did, because gun-toting criminals definitely believe they have a safe haven in Manhattan,” he said, per the Post.
“DA Bragg needs to keep sending the message that they won’t get a pass, and his staff needs to back that message up in the courtroom.”
Republican City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli of Staten Island said the criticism heaped upon Bragg led to the change.
“Bragg realized the predicament he put members of his own party in and the jeopardy he placed most New Yorkers in,” Borelli said. “The shame is that Bragg was the last person to realize people want bad guys in jail.”
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