Governor Hochul: “People deserve to be able to walk their streets, go to their shops, go in their stores safely, purchase their products, go back home without an incident, and our shop workers deserve to feel that they are protected once again.”
Hochul: “That’s our message. Federal, state, local money, resources, analysis, data sharing. It’s all starting right here and right now. I do need the support of the legislature to get some of our initiatives over the finish line. I’m going to call on everyone in this room to help us with that effort to talk about what we need to do.”

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Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted her groundbreaking State of the State proposal to fight retail theft, as larceny offenses continue to rise, especially in New York City. This initiative would utilize proven crime-fighting strategies that have been used to drive down violent crime and gun offenses since Governor Hochul took office in 2021. Governor Hochul made the announcement after attending the 600th daily meeting of the Gun Violence Strategies Partnership, a joint effort between federal, state and local law enforcement, this morning in lower Manhattan.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Good morning, everyone. I just came from a meeting that was so inspiring to me. A group of dedicated professionals who’ve been meeting together for – today was their 600th daily meeting to talk about how we are dealing with the specter of gun violence. This was the gun violence strategic partnership brought together with federal, state, local resources and the coming together at our state-funded Crime Analysis Center here to really find out a way we can get our handle over the spike in violence and gun violence in particular.

I wanted to talk about what we already accomplished together thus far, and we’ll talk about our new challenges, and we really have made a significant difference. When I took office two years ago, violence was spiking, particularly gun violence, shootings were up, murders were up, and people really, in our state felt unsafe. And there was this unease, this uncertainty, and I knew this had to change. I didn’t need a memo to tell me that this was not going to be the status quo in the great State of New York any longer. So, we took aggressive action.

And what we did was we created the [Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative]. We funded additional communities from $9 million to $35 million. I committed $347 million of state money, which we’ve continued every year, including this year toward this. And I mentioned our Crime Analysis Centers. We’ve expanded them to be all throughout the state now, and we’ve processed more than 95,000requests from local entities for us to use our data analytics and our professionals to help track the criminals – find them and arrest them. And I just, again, this morning, this is our 11th Crime Analysis Center and we have over 43 state funded positions right here.

When I talk about funding State Police, operationally – all over is where I need them, and this is one of the places we needed them the most. So, we did this, we also developed cross-county lines partnerships with other local officials as well as other states. For the first time in our state’s history, our nation’s history, I pulled together a consortium of all of our contiguous states to help us track the flow of illegal guns into our state and it really made a difference. So, we’re making those changes.

We also had to change the dynamic around bail. There were too many people that were committing these crimes that were being let out, so we had to change the standards back to what they had been, and I’m proud that we were able to achieve that finally last year.

So, look at what we’ve done. In the last couple years, we’ve driven down gun violence, shootings by more than a third. This was the trend that was going upward. Now, to be down by a third is extraordinary. And in our jurisdictions, where we give direct state funding, they’re down 35 percent, down 38 percent in New York City.

And again, kudos to NYPD and our partnership with them, and I want to thank them for all they do. Murders are way down. We also had – New York has the fourth lowest firearm related mortality rate in the nation. Murder rates much lower than other states. So, I want people to remember these statistics because the narrative that’s out there is this is not the case.

So, facts will always drive where I come from. And I’m not saying we’re spiking the football, despite a very interesting Super Bowl. I really didn’t care who won. I digress. We’re not done. We’re not done. But what a difference. What a difference. This investment, this energy, this focus has made, it’s quite extraordinary.

So, as we come roaring back and making sure that people are literally, are physically safer. There’s also something else that’s going on out there. There’s an unease when people start to see, or they go into a grocery store, or a drug store and people are taking things off the shelves and the toothpaste is locked up and it’s such a hassle to buy it again. So, people are saying, “I’ll just forget that. I’ll just buy it online.”

And what that does to our city core, when you start losing the businesses, because people are just saying, “We can’t do this any longer.” That’s what’s been happening over the last couple years and really triggered by the pandemic once again. And what I’ve said, just like we did with gun violence, I know that we can employ the same strategies, bring the smart people together, forming coalitions, giving resources, changing the laws. We can do this exactly what we did with gun violence, drive it down. We can do this when it comes to retail theft.

And that is the commitment I’ve made. To all the individuals who are here, and I want to thank them for joining me. We have our District Attorney, Melinda Katz, who’ll be delivering remarks, I want to thank her for being on the front line of prosecutions and sending a message that she will not get away with this in her county, her borough of Queens, and I want to make sure that everyone else follows that. So, I want to give her a round of applause for joining us here today.

Also joined by our new Superintendent, but not new to the State Police. Steven James has been a lifer with our State Police – he knows all the capabilities; he knows all the potential and how we are reshaping the State Police. Because my vision has always been the State Police responsibility is to deal with any crisis, any problem throughout the entire State of New York. No task is too small, no task is too big. So, we’ve gone from a force of people that were focused in specific areas and I’ve expanded it dramatically. And under your leadership, we’re going to do even more. So, thank you for saying yes and joining our team as well, our Superintendent Steven James

Melissa O’Connor, New York State Retail and Council. I want to thank her for just always reminding us in government that there are people out there, human beings who put their whole life’s earnings and their vision into a – sometimes a small business, just like my mom did with her little flower shop, and it’s everything they believe. And they take, they miss all the holidays with families. They’re out there working so hard, and you know what happens when something like this happens? They feel like no one’s supporting them. They’re out there on their own. And you have been a strong voice and Melissa, because of you and your effort and your members believing in us to help solve this problem together, we’re going to make a real difference. So, let’s give round applause to Melissa O’Connor.

Nallely De Jesus, created a coalition of various shops and stores who are working together as well. I want to thank her for her support for all we’re doing here. And it’s that coalition on this side as well as with law enforcement who are going to make a difference, so let’s talk about how we’re going to do this and what we’re facing,

From 2017 to 2023, larceny offenses rose by more than 50 percent here in the City. Other crimes going down, people starting to feel a little good until you go into a store. And have retail crimes going up, larceny going up 50 percent, and outside the City – this is in the City – outside the City, rest of state, the numbers are about what they were during the pandemic.

So, there’s been a dynamic here focused on New York City in particular. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist elsewhere, I’m just saying we’re not seeing the spike the way we have here in New York. So, we’re back to pre-pandemic levels outside of New York City. But if you’ve ever worked in retail in the City, and I want to recognize Stuart Appelbaum for representing the retail workers here, and also Kathy Wylde from the Partnership, represents the larger entities and together.

They’re on the front lines. Their members are on the front lines of this. The large businesses, the small businesses. And the stress on someone going to work every day, working in retail, it’s off the charts. I’ve spoken to individuals; they should not have this level of anxiety to go into what at one time was a pretty safe job.

They’re not firefighters, they’re not police officers. This was always a pretty safejob, and it should always be. But now to not know whether someone coming in the door is going to do them harm, or knock them over, and sweep the shelves and sometimes a shooting, sometimes a knifing, it’s got to stop.

We have to protect them. We have to protect these workers and send a message that there are consequences when you touch one of these individuals who’s exposed, who’s out there providing a service for gosh sakes. And so that’s what’s top of mind for us as well. So, to Kathy Wylde and Stuart Appelbaum, I want to thank both of you for championing this cause with us as well.

And we’ve seen on the neighborhood bodegas having to hire security guards. They don’t have extra money for this, they don’t have the money. They’re barely making it. The cost of every product has gone up, they can’t deal with inflation on top of having to put in security cameras and everything else, and so to recognize this, my Budget also includes money for security for stores. If you don’t have the resources, you can get a tax credit, take it off your taxes. It’s a shame we have todo this, but I’m not going to leave them hanging. I’m not going to say, you’re on your own. We’re going to solve this together and that should be a deterrent as well and help law enforcement be able to apprehend those who are doing it.

So again, we’re not talking about a kid who makes a mistake one time, we’re not criminalizing poverty here, we really are focused on what has become a sophisticated, organized retail operation – the smash and grab efforts. They go in and swipe everything off the shelves, and oftentimes they’re loading into a stolen vehicle, compounding the crimes here. And so that’s what our challenge has been. And they sell it online. And so, the retailers, the online platforms also have a responsibility as well; we’re working with them and finding solutions to this as well.

As I mentioned, how important retail is in our state. It’s about eight percent of our employment statewide. We have 370,000 jobs in retail here in the City of New York. I don’t want those numbers to decline. I don’t want people to say, “I don’t want to work in that job anymore. I don’t want more shops to close down.” People said, “I’ll just buy it online. It’s safer.” We don’t want that dynamic at all, and we have to stop that.

So, it’s also $45 billion dollars in wages statewide, 70,000 retail businesses here in the great State of New York. These are the people we have to protect. They went through so much of this pandemic, they were shut down. They’re barely hanging on as it is, and they come out of it thinking the sunny skies are back, the bright days are here – and all of a sudden there’s this specter of crime at unprecedented levels.

So, we actually have made a decision here. I’m going to deploy what I saw in the next room; those individuals have been laser-focused on daily meetings and efforts to stop the spike in gun violence and say, I just challenged them to do this.I need you as our partners. You are the eyes and ears out there. You have the intelligence; you have the data. You can share that with law enforcement. Share it with our District Attorneys. Help us solve this phenomenon with the same intensity that they brought to fighting gun violence and we will get the same results. I’m convinced of this. We will send that strong message.

And again, I mentioned the bail laws have been changed. Repeat offenders can be held on bail. We have seen a dramatic decrease in repeat offenders, which is great. We’re also prioritizing money. I said I’m putting money toward our State Police, $25 million to have a specialized retail theft unit in the State Police, $15 million for prosecutors and local law enforcement to go after them, $5 million for our efforts to help small businesses get security measures, as well as announcing that we’re forming this joint task force – this joint operation of state and federal law enforcement. And also looking at legislation, it makes it illegal to foster the sale of illegal goods.

And as I said, and then we talked to the retail workers about this – increasing penalties for the assault of retail workers. And I want to Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, and Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos for sponsoring this legislation to protect our retail workers.

Now, here’s the story. We’re coming after you. You’re on notice. We’ve had enough, people deserve to be able to walk their streets, go to their shops, go in their stores safely, purchase their products, go back home without an incident, and our shop workers deserve to feel that they are protected once again and not say, I’ve had enough. I’m leaving.”

So, that’s our message. Federal, state, local money, resources, analysis, data sharing. It’s all starting right here and right now. I do need the support of the legislature to get some of our initiatives over the finish line. I’m going to call on everyone in this room to help us with that effort to talk about what we need to do.

And I know that we can make a difference. We just did. The proof is in the effort, it pays off. I’m proud of those statistics when it comes to shootings down, murders down. But I want to be able to stand here in the next year and say, “Yes because of this intentional, concerted effort, creating partnerships, bringing money people together. We also stopped the scourge of retail theft in the City of New York,” and I believe it can be done, so thank you very much.

With that, I’d like to bring up District Attorney Melinda Katz.

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