Cunningham, Stack, Fulop, Suarez support bail changes for illegal gun possession

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State Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-31), Brian Stack (D-33), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez all voiced their support for bail reform changes that would keep most offenders in jail longer if caught with an illegal gun.

Fulop, who first brought up this issue at his Ward B State of the City address last month, explained why he felt new legislation – which would make illegal gun possession a violent crime in certain instances – was important from a Jersey City perspective.

“Just to highlight Jersey City, in 2016, at this point in time, we’ve had 74 handgun seizures from throughout the city. At this point in 2017, the Jersey City Police Department have 95 – working together with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office – a 29 percent increase,” Fulop said.

“Arrests for unlawful possession of a handgun, in 2016, up to this point in time was 51. Today, up to this point in time, is 84: a 65 percent increase, which speaks to the access to guns that young people unfortunately have.”

Stack, who will co-sponsor the bill, said that this is a necessary measure to help curb gun violence throughout the state.

Cunningham, the other prospective bill co-sponsor, said that bail reform was never intended to put dangerous offenders back into the community.

“Bail reform was designed to make sure that people who were incarcerated and who were being held, for small fees such as two or three hundred dollars, who could not go back out on the street, continue to work and take care of their families while they were waiting for their trials to occur,” she explained.

“It was never designed to put people out on the streets who was a danger to the community.”

Additionally, Suarez explained that bail reform is a work in progress, adding that the only current types of offenders that aren’t released in short order are those accused of murder or potentially facing life in prison.

Shea, the final speaker during the presser, thanked the local elected officials for trying to close what was commonly referred to as a bail reform loophole since it will make the lives of the men and women in blue safer.

During a question and answer session with the media, Cunningham clarified that the bill would only apply to those “proven to be a danger to the community” based on past criminal history and the judge’s discretion.

Not everyone in attendance at 280 Grove St. was in favor of new legislation though, as New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance State Director Roseann Scotti said there was not enough data to justify making more changes to bail reform just yet.

“We are a major part of the coalition to get bail reform passed, so we’re very concerned about not going backwards and the laws only been in effect for three months – I don’t think we have enough data at this point,” stated Scotti.

Also proclaiming that “cherry-picking” certain offenses was “a slippery slope,” Scotti said that the NJ Drug Police Alliance feels that the law has been working out well, citing that jail populations are down by about 30 percent.

She added that out of 6,000 people that have been arrested, there have only been “a handful of incidents” regarding repeat offenders.