NY1 has exclusively obtained a review of city data from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which shows of the nearly 1,500 people released early from Rikers Island at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 13 percent of them were re-arrested. The review found the early releases had fewer re-arrests for gun charges or murder than the population released during the normal course of business.  One person was re-arrested for murder while seven were re-arrested on gun charges.

Between March 16 and July 5th, about 4,500 people were released from city jails. The majority of them were sent home because they paid bail, their sentence expired, their case ended or they were released by a judge (all procedures done during normal times). Of those, 1,500 are considered early releases because of coronavirus (this number is smaller than the one cited by the NYPD, which is 2,500).

At the time, advocates and officials were calling for the widespread release of inmates from Rikers to protect vulnerable detainees from the deadly virus. 

But after a spate of shootings across the city, NYPD top brass have blamed, in part, early COVID releases from Rikers Island for the crime wave. Between June 29 and July 5, there were 74 shooting incidents across the city — a 185 percent increase over the same time period in 2019. 

The mayor has been reluctant to blame the early Rikers releases on the crime wave. Officials at City Hall claim the violence is a result of a multitude of factors — including the COVID-19 lockdown, economic tumult and the general upheaval of the last several months. 

Those close to the Rikers release program contradict the narrative from police headquarters, claiming these former detainees are not a driving force in the recent crime wave. 

The new analysis puts two city agencies at odds at a time when the NYPD is dialing up its rhetoric, slamming recent reforms for driving crime up. Top brass at One Police Plaza have blamed bail reform, the City Council, district attorneys and these Rikers releases for the spike in shootings. 

Including  all of the releases from Rikers since March, including non-Covid related ones, the number of serious re-arrests go up. Of the approximately 4,500 releases, 576 people were re-arrested. Six of them were arrested for murder and 35 people were arrested for weapons charges.