Metro

Heastie doubles down on refusing to back stiffer penalties in retail assaults — just his latest alleged soft-on-crime stance

Powerful state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) doubled down Tuesday on his stance that stiffer penalties don’t deter criminals — just the latest example of him allegedly being soft on crime.

Heastie — who has previously opposed proposed rollbacks of the state’s infamous 2019 criminal-justice reforms — landed in hot water last week when he balked at backing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push to stiffen punishments for thugs who assault retail workers, claiming, “I just don’t believe raising penalties is ever a deterrent to crime.”

“I was simply asked a question of, ‘Do I believe that increasing penalties deters crime,’ and I gave a simple answer, ‘No,’ ” Heastie told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t believe, in the history of increasing penalties, has that ever been the reason that crime has gone down.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is pushing back against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to hike up penalties on people who assault retail workers. Robert Miller
State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (D-Staten Island) says she believes increased penalties are a deterrent to crime. Gabriella Bass

Hochul has been pushing the state legislature to jack up penalties for thugs who assault retail workers to the same levels as attacks on nurses, firefighters and sanitation workers.

The governor is making the push as part of a package of measures to crack down on retail theft. Her proposal also includes funding for state police and district attorneys to better catch crooks, especially sophisticated organized rings that pilfer stolen goods.

Heastie has left the door open on other aspects of Hochul’s proposal, but the increased-penalties component remains a sticking point.

State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (D-Staten Island) sponsored a bill that mirrors Hochul’s proposal for increased penalties.

Obtained by NY Post

She told The Post on Tuesday that she thinks penalties are deterrents, but even if not, they should still be harsher to at least send a message that Albany cares about the same employees they hailed as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If [opponents] don’t see it as a deterrent, then I think they need to start seeing it as valuing workers and their lives,” Scarcella-Spanton said.

She called for the proposal not to be dropped from the state’s proposed budget.

“I think when we’re talking about increasing penalties, we have to do it in the budget so it gets done,” Scarcella-Spanton said.

The issue is far from the first time Heastie has drawn lines in the sand to defend progressive criminal-justice policies.

How The Post told the story of organized shoplifting rings that target city stores. rfaraino

Last year’s state budget was held up for more than a month as negotiators, including Heastie, pushed back on granting what he ultimately described as “tweaks” to the bail laws.

Heastie has also thrown his weight around to block bills allowing New York City set its own speed limits; fallen in line with powerful unions in resisting an expansion of charter schools and abandoned the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry into ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.