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Murder in New York has dropped to levels not seen since the 1950s, and is falling so fast the Big Apple could finish the year with the lowest homicide rate of any big city in the nation.
There have been 279 homicides in the city through Oct. 31, down 23 percent from the 364 logged in the same 10-month period last year. The city is on pace for about 100 fewer slayings this year than the 419 it recorded last year, which was the lowest figure since 1962 when police began keeping reliable records.
If the current average of less than one homicide a day holds, New York would see 334 killings by year’s end. Police officials believe homicides haven’t been that low since 1956 and 1957. The all-time high was 2,245 in 1990.
“These are historic levels,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said during a promotion ceremony last week.
The city still faces more crime than Sheriff Andy Taylor did in his fictional North Carolina town, where shenanigans by Goober or Barney Fife posed the biggest threat to public safety. But when it comes to murder, Gotham is close to becoming America’s safest city.
New York’s current rate of 2.9 murders per 100,000 people would have placed it fourth last year among the 74 US cities with populations of at least 250,000. Only Plano, Texas (with a 0.4 murder rate), Lincoln, Neb. (1.1), and Henderson, Nev. (1.4), were safer, according to 2012 FBI crime stats.
By contrast, the most murderous US cities were Detroit, with 54 murders per 100,000 people; New Orleans (53); St. Louis (35); Baltimore (34), and Newark (34). Chicago was at 18.5 and LA 7.8. New York City’s rate last year was 5.1.
Plano, a quiet wealthy, Dallas suburb, recorded just one murder in 2012 and three homicides so far this year. Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, an African-American of Haitian descent who grew up in Harlem and lived in New York during the crack epidemic of the 1990s, attributes Plano’s safety to a “high level of trust between the police department and the community.”
Murder, when it does happen, “is typically domestic violence,” he said.
In New York, few believed that a plummeting murder rate could be sustained. But it has been, and Mayor Bloomberg points to the success as vindication of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.
The tactic — which Kelly calls “basic to police work” — has become a lightning rod in the mayoral race. Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered reforms, calling the policy akin to racial profiling, but last week, she was tossed off the case by an appeals court, which said she “ran afoul” of proper judicial conduct by yapping about the matter.
LaRosiliere recognized the need for stopping and frisking suspects, although as a young black man in Harlem he was detained numerous times, he said, including once when he was surrounded by detectives simply for running to his car because he was late.
More courtesy, he said, would help.
“After it’s done, there’s no sense of, ‘Sorry, we thought you were someone else,’ ” he said. “It’s more like, ‘OK. You can go.’ Almost like, ‘We didn’t catch you this time.’ ”
Also driving down murders, Kelly says, is the NYPD’s focus on trigger-happy youth gangs and domestic violence, along with hot-spot policing and an expanding use of electronic data to identify crime trends.
Last week, he revealed a startling stat: Murders of New York’s youngest victims — those between the ages of 13 and 21 — have dropped by 50 percent since the NYPD launched Operation Crew Cut, a program for disarming small neighborhood gangs.
“They are responsible for 30 percent of the shootings in the city,” Kelly said, pointing out that victims are often innocent bystanders.
“What’s happening in the city is a renaissance,” former Police Commissioner Howard Safir told The Post.
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