LA city councilman seeks return of cash bail for non-violent felonies, misdemeanors

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino Wednesday introduced a resolution to support the reinstitution of cash bail in Los Angeles County, which was suspended for low-level, non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.

In a statement Wednesday, Buscaino said the suspension of cash bail has "created a free-for-all environment where criminals are charged one day and released the next."

Los Angeles first suspended cash bail in June 2020 as a measure to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in county jails. When District Attorney George Gascón took office in January 2021, he directed deputy district attorneys not to seek money bail for "misdemeanor, non-violent and non-serious felony offenses."

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While the cash bail system was not eliminated for violent offenses, Buscaino's resolution cites a "substantial increase in violent crime and brazen robberies."

Violent crime has increased in Los Angeles -- and across the United States -- during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore on Tuesday said that robberies in the city are 12.7% lower compared to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Last week, however, saw the highest number of robberies for the year, with 200 reported, the majority of which were street robberies.

Gascon has argued that the cash bail system "allows wealthy people who are dangerous to purchase their freedom while those without means who pose no risk to public safety languish in jail awaiting trial," according to a statement from earlier this year. He added that some people's inability to make bail "leads to them losing their jobs, homes and access to treatment while separating them from their children."

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