Sandy helps boost NYC crime rate, say cops

New York City's overall crime rate blipped higher in 2012, affected in part by an increase in burglaries and other crimes in areas of Queens and Staten Island hit hard by superstorm Sandy, police statistics show.

Felonies rose 3.3 percent last year compared with 2011, from 106,852 incidents to 110,401, according to the latest CompStat data compiled by the NYPD through Dec. 30.

Homicides dropped 18.8 percent while all other serious crimes, including rape and grand larceny rose anywhere from 2.1 percent to 9.3 percent. Stolen car complaints continued a historic drop, falling 13 percent from 2011.

But the slight uptick in crime -- for the second consecutive year -- didn't change the overall trend over two decades in which felonies in the city have dropped anywhere from 53 percent for assault and nearly 93 percent for auto theft, the police data show.

"When you look historically, the decline in crime has improved the quality of life dramatically to the point where Midwestern parents are comfortable sending kids to college [in the city] and the parents visit on weekends," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Tuesday.

Police saw a spike in burglaries, robberies and felony assaults in the Rockaways in the aftermath of Sandy. As a result, statistics show the 100th and 101st precincts on the Rockaway peninsula had increases of 13.5 percent and 40.4 percent, respectively, in felonies. The 120th Precinct in Staten Island, another hard-hit storm area, saw a 13.3 percent increase. Police have also said thefts of smartphones pushed up larceny cases.

While city officials have credited aggressive policing, which focuses on high crime areas, and the controversial stop-and-frisk program with helping drive down crime, Browne said the trend began in the 1980s with the waning of the crack wars in the city. That was followed by the Safe Streets-Safe City program and initiatives by the Clinton administration, which put more police on the streets, pumping the size of the NYPD to more than 41,000 in 2001, noted Browne.

"In the past, the conventional wisdom was police couldn't do anything about crime," said police historian and author Thomas Reppetto.

"The old system was sporadic anti-crime drives; they do it now on a continuing basis."

Technology and the use of social media have helped police crack down on gang violence, said Browne. But crime is a constant work in progress.

"It is never static, it is day-to-day," said Browne. "We have to continue to do what we think works."

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