Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, chances are you’ve watched the now-viral video of a man mercilessly beating a disabled 60-year-old woman named Laurell Reynolds. This man, seemingly with her own cane, repeatedly struck her as she desperately tried to defend herself. As we watched in horror, many of us wondered when he would stop. However, it is a strange question to ask, as it implies that the fate of the victim lies in the hands of someone who heartlessly attacks defenseless women. The truth is, it is up to us – the decent and honorable members of society – to put an end to individuals like him through the institutions we have established to address and prevent such crimes. That’s why this case serves as a perfect metaphor for the larger issue with our criminal justice system in New York.
According to The Post, the NYPD made an arrest in this case on Wednesday. The alleged perpetrator, Norton Blake, is a repeat offender with at least nine prior arrests for various offenses such as drug possession, trespassing, assault, and resisting arrest. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to crime in New York that he has caused harm to society through repeated criminal behavior. Yet, it seems like those responsible for making criminal justice policies are only silently questioning when he will stop. However, stopping him and others like him is their responsibility. When will our criminal justice system finally say “Enough”? How many times can one be caught and released?
These are the questions that more and more New Yorkers will be asking themselves as they continue to hear about horrific crimes committed by individuals who have had multiple encounters with the law. As this case unfolds, one thing to watch closely is what will happen to the man charged with the assault. Will he be released before trial? It is important to note that New York state judges are not allowed to consider dangerousness when making pretrial release decisions. If he is convicted, how much prison time, if any, will he receive? While this may not be a murder case, that woman could have easily lost her life. Shouldn’t her attacker suffer the consequences of her luck?
The unfortunate truth is that heinous crimes are often committed by individuals with a history of criminal behavior. Whether it’s shoplifting or homicide, repeat offenders who continuously violate the law drive crime disproportionately. While they may eventually stop on their own if left alone, who wants to wait that long? Norton Blake has been arrested at least nine times before for charges including assault. Who wants to tell women like Laurell Reynolds that they just have to endure a little longer, hoping that it will eventually be over? It’s time to remember that crime must be stopped by external forces instead of relying on luck. Until we reaffirm this principle, we can expect these blows to keep coming, over and over again.
Rafael A. Mangual is a City Journal contributing editor, the Nick Ohnell fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of “Criminal Injustice: What The Push For Decarceration And Depolicing Gets Wrong And Who It Hurts Most.”