New York City is on pace to record its lowest number of homicides since the administration of President John Kennedy, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday.
With 265 murders chalked up so far this year, the current trend could put the number of killings in the neighborhood of 414 in the city, although Kelly shied away from giving any prediction or setting any goal.
Police use 1963 as the benchmark year for historical comparisons because that was when homicide reporting became more uniform, officials said. In that year, there were reportedly 548 killings.
But although statistical comparison isn't as precise with 1960, when Kennedy was elected and homicides were reported to have hit 482, the city may already have bested the Kennedy-era data. The lowest level hit so far during the Bloomberg administration was 471 killings in 2009, according to police statistics. In 2011, there were 515 homicides. Both stand in stark comparison to the highest level of 2,245 in 1990.
"But despite these successes there are far too many illegal guns on the streets," Kelly told reporters. "We saw that again this weekend, with the shooting of a man in the back of a cab early Saturday morning in Brooklyn."
Based on the 265 killings recorded until Monday morning, there is an average of just over one murder a day in the city. Calculating that average through the end of the year, the number could dip to 414 homicides. Kelly cautioned against setting any statistical goal, particularly since homicides could blip up in unpredictable patterns at any time. But he nevertheless called the city's progress in the past 10 years remarkable. Kelly added that homicides are down in all categories, including domestic violence cases.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne maintained that the continual drop in homicides was in part attributable to the city's controversial stop-and-frisk program. However, police statistics note that less than 1 percent of the nearly 700,000 stops recorded by police led to guns being confiscated.
City Council public safety committee chairman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the drop in homicides is hard to explain at a time when other categories of crime have increased this year.
"Shootings are up, we could very well have a . . . higher rate if shooters were more accurate," Vallone said.
"The murder statistic is one of the very few that can't be fudged or altered in any way," observed Vallone. "It is the real barometer of how well we are doing. . . . Unfortunately, that is the only rate that is going down."