NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, in Times Square on New Years...

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, in Times Square on New Years Eve 2016, is expected to meet the news media next week to discuss the city's continuing drop in serious crime so far in 2017. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

With the first quarter of 2017 about to end, New York City is seeing a significant decrease in homicides and is on track to record around 300 by the end of the year, a level not seen in the modern era of police record keeping, according to NYPD officials and the latest department crime data.

Through March 29, the city had recorded 60 homicides, compared with 68 in 2016, a drop of almost 12 percent, according to the data. As of late Thursday, the city hadn’t recorded any additional killings.

The drop in homicides comes at a time when the city is experiencing an overall 5-percent drop in all serious crimes, which include rape, robbery, and felony assault among others. It has also led to surprise among Police Commissioner James O’Neill’s staff even as they have become used to Compstat data showing a consistent downward trend in serious crime.

O’Neill is expected to hold a briefing Monday about the latest statistics.

Experts inside and outside the NYPD believe the targeting of gangs, weapons takedowns and neighborhood policing is responsible for the latest decline. Shootings are also are down 21.6 percent so far in 2017 with 145, compared to 185 in the same period last year.

For the first time since the NYPD entered the modern era of record keeping, the percentage of homicides involving firearms has dropped below 50 percent, officials said.

“We are in a positive trend,” said NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis, referring to the fewer homicides so far in 2017.

If the drop continues, Davis said, “we could be on track to beat our last record.”

That record is 333, notched in 2014, 20 years after the start of the Compstat era. In 2016, the NYPD recorded 335 homicides.

The spring and summer months often see higher homicide numbers so NYPD officials were reluctant to predict a final number for the year.

Excluding reclassified cases such as the death of Det. Stephen McDonald in January from the effects of a shooting years ago, the actual number of homicides this year is 50, Davis said. Each year, the NYPD adds from 10 to 12 reclassified homicides from previous years to its current total.

Of the homicides committed in 2017, gunfire accounted for 22 of them, or 44 percent. A number of NYPD officials said the typical range for gun-involved killings is between 50 percent and 60 percent.

Police believe that two straight years of an offensive against gangs has helped push the homicide and shooting levels down. One hundred anti-gang operations have netted 1,000 suspects in that period, the NYPD has reported.

O’Neill’s has also credited “precision policing,” targeting the hard core criminals, as another reason for the decline in serious crime.

“We are going to use precision policing to focus on that element,” O’Neill told a new class of recruits graduating Thursday. “The criminals who commit the majority of violence here in New York City actually make up a very small percentage of our population.”

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