With Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg apparently about to charge Trump with a felony for campaign finance violations, what has been the impact Bragg’s unwillingness to prosecute other felonies? A lot more felonies are being committed.

Mar 19, 2023 | Criminal Justice System, Original Research

Updated with inclusion of this video: Florida Gov Ron DeSantis makes similar points regarding the impact Bragg has had on crime in NYC. March 20, 2023

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has been very reluctant to prosecute most people for felonies, but apparently, former President Trump is different. Compare the last year before the pandemic (2019) with 2022. Under Bragg, the number of felony cases Bragg declined to prosecute increased from 828 to 1,119 — a 35% increase. That explains most of the drop in the conviction rate for felonies from 68% to 51% over that period. And while many felony cases were then handled as misdemeanors (a 33% increase over 2019), the drop in misdemeanor prosecutions was much larger, explaining why the number of misdemeanors resulting in jail sentences fell by 78%. What makes this all the more remarkable is that this huge drop occurred while the number of offenses increased.

From 2021 to 2022, Manhattan’s seven major felony offenses surged by 26%. But there are four other boroughs in New York City, though they have very progressive District Attorneys. From 2021 to 2022, the four other borough’s seven major felony offenses increased by 22%. So felonies increased slightly faster for Manhattan than in the other four boroughs.

Alvin Bragg explicitly motivated his reforms to equalize the incarceration rate across racial groups. The memo Bragg released just days after taking office mentions his push to end the “racially disparate use of incarceration.” But while Bragg is reducing the penalties on black criminals, he is ignoring that the victims of these black criminals are overwhelmingly black. For example, blacks murdered about 90% of black murder victims. But whatever Bragg’s motivation, the bottom line is simple: if you make it less risky for criminals to commit crime, you will get more crime.

The Compstat data for New York City is available here.