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article imageNew York City Homicide Rate Continues to Drop

By Nawest Vazquez     Nov 24, 2007 in Crime
New York City is on pace to record fewer than 500 homicides in 2007, a new low. This disputes the reputation of the Big Apple as a place where random acts of violence occur on a daily basis.
Less than 500 homicides will be a record for New York City. It will be the lowest number in a 12-month period since accurate Police Department statistics became available in 1963.
From the official statistics, however, comes a figure that is even more startling - with half the homicides analyzed, only 35 were found to be committed by strangers. In a city of more than 8 million people, that's a microscopic proportion of the population.
If that trend continues fewer than 100 homicide victims in New York City will not have known their killers. The majority of homicide victims died in disputes with people they knew - friends, acquaintances, rival gang members, or romantic partners, spouses, or family.
When I was growing up, New York City was always known as the place where everyone was vulnerable to random attacks on the street, and random robberies that often turned fatal.
I know Rudy Giuliani was given a lot of credit for cleaning up New York City, and Michael Bloomberg as well. New York City has come a long way, it seems.
Some criminologists say that the New York police department can't drive the homicide rate much lower, because most killings occur within the walls of an apartment or in the confines of a close relationship. After all, you can't have a cop at every house.
Peter K. Manning, Brooks professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, agrees.
"We know that historically, homicide is the least suppressible crime by police action," he said. "It is, generally speaking, a private crime, resulting from people who know one another and have relationships that end up in death struggles at home or in semipublic places."
It wasn't always like this in New York City. The homicide rate has continued a remarkable slide since 1990, when New York City recorded the most killings in a single year: 2,245. A number of victims in 1990 were killed in violence between strangers.
Raymond W. Kelly served as police commissioner in the early 90's, when rates began to fall. Kelly returned to the post of police commissioner in 2002, under Mayor Bloomberg.
Nearly two decades ago, New York City was averaging more than six homicides a day, on average. Quite a staggering statistic. Today, that average is down to an average of a bit more than one a day
The dropping homicide rate has led people to ask whether the rates of other types of crime are on the rise. Police statistics show that they are not. Since the early 90's, six of the seven major crime categories, have dipped.
As of last week, overall crime was down 6.47% in New York City, compared to the same period last year. Shootings, as well as those wounded in shootings, are both down.
What makes this even more interesting is that America is experiencing a surge in homicides. One would think that New York City would follow the national trend, but that simply hasn't been the case. Credit the N.Y.P.D. for their diligence. They have decreased the murder rate incredibly by being tough on gangs.
Another striking statistic: of the 412 killings this year, 196 victims and 149 assailants had previous arrests for narcotics. Seventy-seven percent of assailants had a previous arrest history, while 70 percent of the victims did.
I've been to New York City a number of times in the last few years, and I felt completely safe walking the streets, even late at night. The homicide rate is at a historically low level, and you've got to credit the New York authorities for that. It is, after all, one of the greatest cities in North America.
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