ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a message for all of New York City’s district attorneys in the wake of the looting and violence that has rocked the five boroughs over the last several days.

“Charge crimes appropriately.”

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Speaking at his daily media briefing on Thursday, the governor expressed his concerns over those committing extreme acts of violence being arrested and then immediately released. It came a day after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer in an exclusive interview he wants the governor to suspend the new bail laws in lieu of the dangerous situation that even Cuomo, himself, has called “perilous.”

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Cuomo again made it clear there is a distinct difference between those protesting peacefully, which he supports, and “opportunists” hellbent on looting and causing mayhem.

“I also want to reinforce to the New York City district attorneys, you have scenes of looting that are on videotape that are indefensible and inexcusable. Looting is criminal activity, number one,” Cuomo said. “Looting is exploiting this situation with the protests. They know that the police are going to be busy with the protesters. They’re then using that as an opportunity to loot.

“These people should be charged for the crime that they are committing and bail set. I understand the political environment. I also understand that the law is the law,” Cuomo added.

Cuomo insisted Vance and the other district attorneys already have the power to seek bail. He said it’s a question of what charges they bring. He said that instead of charging looters with burglary in the third degree, they should charge them with burglary in the second degree, Kramer reported.

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Melissa De Rosa, secretary to the governor, explained, “They’re not using the tools that are available to them. Bail could be set if the person is, A, carrying a dangerous instrument which includes a rock, B, uses a rock, brick or the like to break the window to gain entry.”

A spokesperson for Vance, however, said the DAs can’t.

“To date, the overwhelming majority of looting cases in Manhattan cannot be charged as burglary in the second degree. The facts of those cases don’t support such a charge,” the spokesperson said.

The DA said that the looting is a perfect example of why the Legislature should change the bail reform laws.

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As for police actions over the last week and moving forward, the governor came out strongly against any acts of violence against officers.

“The police are doing an impossible job,” Cuomo said. “They’re trying to deal with the protesters, they’re trying to stop looting, and they’re trying to keep themselves safe because the police want to go home to their families. There is no tolerance for violence against the police officers, period, in any part of this state.”

Protester Civic Duty

Cuomo eventually segued to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and how protester mass gatherings could exacerbate the problem.

He said the state-wide hospitalization numbers continue to fall and that there were 52 new deaths on Wednesday, up only three from the previous day, but he said he’s concerned about thousands of people in close proximity to each other on the streets.

“You have 30,000 people who have been protesting statewide. … Many of them wear masks, thank God, but there’s no social distancing,” Cuomo said. “You look at the encounters with the police. The police are right in their face; they’re right in the face of the police — 20,000 protesters in New York City, thousand protesters on Long Island, these are big numbers.”

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New York state is now conducting 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day, Cuomo said, and the criteria for testing has been expanded to include those who have attended a demonstration. He said it’s the civic duty of the protesters to:

  • Get tested
  • Allow police to do their jobs
  • Wear a mask
  • Tell people you may have been exposed

“You’re not worried about yourself. That’s a different conversation. Worry about your 55-year-old grandfather, or your 62-year-old grandmother, or your 60-year-old parent or uncle or aunt. They can die from this virus,” Cuomo said.

Due to the lag in the gathering and reporting of coronavirus data, Cuomo said it may take up to two weeks to see if the large protests will have an impact on the state’s positive test and hospitalization rate.

Relief For Owners Of Looted Businesses

Cuomo said many of the stores that have been vandalized were mom and pop shops that likely won’t have the resources to rebuild.

“So we’re going to do everything that we can do to help them,” he said.

He said the Department of Financial Services (DFS) is going to work with the business owners.

“If a looted business has trouble with your insurance company, go to the Department of Financial Services, the website, and they will provide relief,” Cuomo said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also said the city will provide $500,000 to help those businesses recover.

“We’ll provide a variety of help to all those small businesses that were affected,” he said. “We will help get their insurance. Whatever it takes to get them back on their feet.”

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