20th Precinct’s Chief Explains Mixed Progress on Thefts, and Concerns About $2 Bail

Captain Neil Zuber addressing community members

By Joy Bergmann

Captain Neil Zuber, commanding officer of NYPD’s 20th Precinct, characterized recent developments in UWS crime as “bittersweet” during Thursday evening’s Community Council meeting.

He noted the area had seen an improvement in grand larcenies [major thefts] at retailers, but at the same time, the precinct saw three stores close. “The leases were up, plus the larcenies,” Zuber said, without naming the three retailers. He later confirmed the Rite Aid on Amsterdam and 70th was among them. According to the latest NYPD CompStat report, grand larcenies year-to-date have risen 52% compared to 2020, and 26% compared to 2019.

Zuber lamented the impact of state bail reform on policing efficacy and morale.

For example, he said, 20th detectives recently arrested a suspect in seven theft complaints with a similar modus operandi: “An elderly victim in Fairway or other public place would have their wallet removed from a purse.” The suspect had a “long rap sheet” of prior offenses, Zuber said. “We requested high bail. The D.A. requested high bail,” he said. “He got $2 bail…that’s what we’re facing.”

When asked for an update on the October 4th shooting at 72nd and Columbus and the October 28th shooting near 71st and Broadway, Zuber said there had been no arrests yet in either case. “There’s been progress on both…we’re waiting on labs and other results,” he said, noting that investigations can take time. “This is not television.”

Zuber also reported the precinct saw three people resign in the past two weeks. He could not say for certain that the Covid-19 vaccine mandate caused the resignations, but indicated it may have. He also said the mandate may have spurred the departure of several school crossing guards.

NEWS | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Leon says:

      The example of the low bail begs a follow-up question: I agree 100% that there should be higher bail for a repeat offender. But regardless of the bail, what happens when the suspect’s case is actually tried in court? Is this being done in a timely manner? Are they being given adequate punishment that factors in the number of offenses they have committed?

      If suspects are being sentenced quickly and adequately, I am not as concerned about bail. But I have a feeling that is not the case, which is the bigger problem here. If you were a police officer, would you bother putting yourself at risk to arrest someone knowing that nothing would come of it?

      Someone please correct me if I am misunderstanding the situation.

      • Concerned says:

        I agree 100% with Leon. This is information that we never hear about. If there is a backlog before trial, what needs to be done to fix that?

      • denton says:

        Is this being done in a timely manner? Well, you could look into the case of Kalief Browder, whose death by suicide (after being released from custody) was what prompted a lot of these reforms. He was in Rikers Island, much of the time in solitary confinement, for three years before he was released without a trial. He had been arrested for the theft of a backpack, a crime that he most likely did not commit. The New Yorker did a long article on it. I hope this answers your question.

        PS: this shows another screwed up mess in the criminal justice system. The system is designed to be ‘frictionless’, as in, plead guilty to reduced charges and we will all move along. If you have the temerity to demand a trial, for example if you are innocent, you will be punished by rotting away in jail, unless of course you can make bail. Kalief Browder’s bail was $3000, and he couldn’t make it.

    2. Lifer says:

      Pathetic. Bail complaints when traffic injuries & fatalities are the #1 safety threat in the precinct??????

      Replace him stat

      • Carlos says:

        Dealing with both issues is not mutually exclusive. And perhaps if there were stricter punishments for those who repeatedly violate traffic laws, much like many of us want stricter punishments for those who repeatedly violate other laws, that problem would also be dealt with.

        • Adams is going to be rough says:

          They 100% are mutually exclusive. Traffic enforcement does not typically result in arrest and/or imprisonment. It does result in citation, suspension of license, & seizure of vehicle. The key differential is that the officer engaging in enforcement can’t file for overtime relating to transporting a prisoner or court time, ergo there is less fiscal incentive for the cop to engage in said enforcement unless their supervisor is cracking the whip and demanding activity.

          Police PR and talking points are one thing. The actuality of their work is something else and it would behoove you to get beyond the NYPost/NYPD talking points

          • Sam Katz says:

            Actually, you are incorrect on all points. In NYC, where police are very, very busy, they do not issue traffic tickets. Traffic Agents issue traffic tickets. They used to be called “brownies” because of their uniforms, but now they wear blue uniforms like police, only they’re not police. Police only patrol the highways. It has nothing to do with “overtime” or “financial incentives.” Maybe next time you go to a community council meeting you can weigh in instead of weighing in here. But I won’t hold my breath for that to happen, because one thing I learned as 16 years on the council board is that the people who complain the most are people who know the least and can’t be bothered to go to the meetings and learn anything.

            • Boris says:

              Instead of lecturing people with incorrect information, maybe you should take the time to learn the facts. Police do issue traffic tickets and they patrol the streets, not just the highways. Traffic agents are not authorized to issue tickets for moving violations.

            • Abe Beame was misunderstood says:

              I know most New Yorkers don’t drive but this is hilarious. Moving violations are ALL issued by uniformed MOS. Highways, city streets….if you’ve been *pulled over* in NYC, it’s by a street cop, not a traffic agent.

              Community board members might wanna learn the basics of how law enforcement functions, as well as other branches of city govt….

      • David says:

        The decision by our State law makers to allow people who have been arrested for street crime to remain on the street leads to an increase in crime. That is not my opinion. Rather, it is reality. And if crime rates go up, like we’re experiencing on the UWS, the Police will have less resources to manage traffic.

        The reduction in bail for criminal offenses is the cause of the problem. Not the Police.

        • Jerry says:

          Actually, David, your first sentence is an opinion and is not borne out by the facts. People–including Captain Zuber–make up stuff that seems logical or even obvious to them but is often contradicted by evidence. Commissioner Shea made the allegation that bail reform had led to an increase in crime and had to back down when he was presented with evidence refuting that.

          • Sam Katz says:

            No evidence that bail reform leads to the rise in crime? You’re joking, right? The perp who just ran over and killed five people at a parade in Wisconsin was OUT on $1,000 low bail, which he got for running someone over. Bail reform is responsible for the spike in crime. Ignoring quality of life offenses has also been responsible for the rise in crime — or do you think someone who commits grand larceny also paid his subway fare? No, he didn’t and doesn’t, hence jumping the turnstiles and having no consequences for it is why the spike in subway crime as well. It is ALL connected.

    3. CostBenefit Analysis says:

      While I don’t like thieves on the loose, as a taxpayer, I’m ok with no bail for pre-trial suspects in non-violent offenses. The financial cost of time in Rikers, etc. is huge.

      According to a March 2021 report from Comptroller Scott Stringer, “the city now spends a record $447,337 to incarcerate one person for a full year, or roughly $1,226 a day. That sum represents an increase of 146% since 2014, when the city’s daily cost of incarceration was $499.”

    4. Frank Grimes says:

      Plenty of “bitter” in this commentary…..still not sure I see the “sweet” part…..Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone can find a silver lining here, yet people still support the policies that lead us here…..In a way, we deserve everything we get, but I’m sure we will continue to lament when stores close, and when we wonder why, we can refer back to this article.

    5. GG says:

      This guy sounds kinda whiny, no?

      Morale? Vaccine mandates? This isn’t TV? Low bail?

      How about just do your job? This guy rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Like nothing is his responsibility.

      • jhminnyc says:

        There’s a difference between offering an explanation for what’s going on right now in his field and whining. I may not like to hear some of his analysis of the situation, but I think he’s the pro, not me. His people are on the ground and in the middle of it. For what it’s worth, I don’t always agree with the police either.

    6. babrarus says:

      $2 bail.
      You can’t buy a slice of pizza, a loaf of bread, 6 eggs or take a bus ride for $2, but you get bailed out for grand larceny for $2?
      The system is broken, for decades already, and the fact that you arrest a thief and he/she are out on the street, again, free, in a matter of hours, with no bail or a $2 bail, is crazy.
      The system needs a fix or we’re in deep s–t trouble, as we are already.

      • Don Kedick says:

        Where are you buying pizza, bread, and eggs? You absolutely can get them for $2 if you want the cheap stuff. Eggs in particular shift a lot but $2 gets you a dozen much more often than not.

        • Beherenow says:

          Pray tell me where you get a dozen eggs for $2 or less. I’m talking real eggs from a chicken.

          • Don Kedick says:

            I don’t know what prices look like this month, but regular white eggs are usually $2 or less per dozen at Trader Joe’s (highest I’ve personally seen was $2.17).

    7. disappointed taxpayer says:

      Perhaps crime would be lower if the police were present and visible on a regulars basis. Where are they? They have disappeared from the UWS !

    8. Brandon says:

      A lot more than three stores have closed on the UWS in recent months, so where is that number coming from?

      Is he saying that out of all the closures, three have been because of theft? And did he explain how he knows this? I would imagine the expiration of their leases (and the likely rent increases associated with renewing them) is a much bigger factor in forcing a store to close.

    9. Sid says:

      No masks inside? Jeez

    10. chris says:

      Who determines what the bail will be?
      $2 seems silly.

    11. fellow westsider says:

      WSR, thank you for reporting on the recent Community Council meeting.

      Can one attend via Zoom or only in-person? Also, the 20th precinct website indicates meetings typically take place the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m., though the most recent one apparently occurred Thursday evening. Has the schedule changed?

      Thank you.

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        Zooms are not allowed at this time, as I understand it. The 20th’s meeting schedule has changed from what’s on their web site. The best way to know about meetings is to follow on Twitter. Next meeting won’t be until late January.

        https://twitter.com/NYPD20Pct

        • fellow westsider says:

          Thanks so much, Joy Bergmann. I will follow the 20th precinct on Twitter.

          I hope the precinct will find a way to offer a virtual attendance option next year, particularly as last Thursday’s Community Council meeting tweet noted space limitations.

    12. Jerry says:

      If “Zuber lamented the impact of state bail reform on policing efficacy and morale,” as the article states, he should educate the police officers who work for him in the 20th precinct. State bail reform has little to do with judicial outcomes. Offenders are either convicted of crimes or they aren’t, and perpetrators who are convicted are either sentenced to prison or they aren’t. Holding someone in prison who has been arrested while awaiting trial for a non-violent offense merely because they do not have enough money to post bail is unequal treatment as it is based on economic means. Furthermore, there is no evidence to date in jurisdictions that have enacted bail reform that doing so led to an increase in crime. It would behoove Captain Zuber and the officers in his command to know that imprisoning someone who has been accused of a non-violent crime but has not yet been convicted is neither a legitimate or an effective crime fighting tool. NYPD police blaming poor performance and low morale on state bail reform is misinformed–a red herring at best and intentional disinformation at worst.

      • Leon says:

        Agreed – this is what I was trying to say above. The issue isn’t as much bail as that these suspects are not being tried quickly and are not given adequate punishment. Bail would be a non-issue if they were then being tried very quickly.

        I am not a law-enforcement professional. What would be helpful is an explanation on changes in processing time in courts, and sentencing, particularly for those who have committed multiple offenses, regardless of the severity of each offense. I’m sure someone who reads WSR can help with this, preferably in a facts-only, non-biased way.

    13. Tego says:

      There are at least two problems:
      1. A severe lack of a “speedy trial” as I believe is noted in the Constitution;
      2. Armed robbery or even manslaughter allows a potentially guilty person to continue to roam the streets if they have enough money to “buy” their way out of a lock up until trial. A lot of opinions here, I will admit, without a proper discussion, I have none.

    14. Bena says:

      I have lived on UWS since 1960’s. I can only applaud the cops – ain’t an easy job. In fact – I actually thank cops when I see them. How many other people have bailed or taken early retirement in years past. No workforce is perfect! Why not support people and you betcha things will get better – only difference is back then the schools didn’t have nannies picking up their kids – “specialized” programs – yes, I was in one – aren’t that special and you actually worked as a teenager:)

    15. Josh P. says:

      He has two unsolved shootings in his districts that have been open for a month now. What lab results is he waiting for and why can’t he find enough evidence without them to make any sort of progress? Maybe he should keep his political opinions about bail reform and why retailers are choosing not to renew their leases to himself until he gets his own house in order.

      • Peter says:

        Everybody and their mother has an (oft-politically biased) opinion on topics they know little about, including policing and criminal justice reform, but you want him to stay apolitical?

        • Josh P. says:

          I expect civil servants to do their job while they are on the clock and performing their official duties. When he’s in uniform and addressing the community board he should do the job we are paying him to do (solve the shootings in our neighborhood) and save his personal political opinions for his personal time.

          • Sam Katzx says:

            No, actually, the Captain of the Precinct reports to the people at the meetings who ask him questions. They ask what he thinks is causing the rise in crime and he answers. I much rather hear his opinion on the topic than yours. I know he knows what he talking about and I know you don’t. Take your dictatorial act someplace else.

            • Josh P. says:

              When he was asked who committed the recent shootings in our neighborhood, he had to say “I don’t know.”
              If someone asks him what he thinks is driving turnover in the commercial real estate market (a topic completely outside of his expertise) he’s free to say the exact same thing.

          • Sharon Katz says:

            I love how you decided what his job is! I love when people say that to me, too. “Your job is to ….” It’s hilarious! Call me when you can prove that you write the City’s job descriptions. I’d be very interested in knowing how you got that job!

        • Sharon Katz says:

          You’re quite right, Peter. I spent 16 years as the Community Council president in this precinct, and it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to show up at the meetings. But they will gladly sit at home and spew their uneducated opinions from the safety of their computers at their desks. Real tough desk jockies! Usually, the opinions of people here have no bearing on the meeting answers, because they are not at the meetings asking the questions. Of course, the public pays experts for their opinions. This Captain is an expert, and we do pay him for his opinion on the job or off the job: his job is to handle crime solving in the manner in which he would like; however laws and directives from the City often are contradictory to getting the job done. Some readers don’t want expert advice, they want to give advice, but sadly, they don’t know what they’re writing about; only they don’t know that they don’t know. They think they know, which is worse than simply admitting they don’t know. Most readers, however, recognize that they don’t know.

          • Boris says:

            I’m not convinced that you’re as knowledgeable as you would like everyone to believe with your continuous lecturing. Just because you served on the community council doesn’t make you an authority. No one will ever accuse you though of being a bundle of warm feelings.