It was another day of superlatives Monday for the NYPD as both Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill trumpeted the first quarter of 2017 for being the safest three months in the city during the modern era of record keeping.
The mayor and police commissioner also said the same for March, which included a 35 percent decrease in murders compared to the same month last year.
One problem area highlighted during the NYPD’s monthly crime briefing for reporters was a troubling 100 percent spike in hate crimes so far this year to 144 from 72 in the same period in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes — swastika graffiti in particular — have driven the increase, officials said.
But the crime data across all serious offenses, de Blasio said, notably the drop in homicides and shootings, pointed to lives saved.
“Overall, an extraordinary achievement,” the mayor said.
De Blasio also took the briefing as an opportunity to criticize the Trump Administration’s belief that immigrants could be the source of more crime.
“Crime is going down markedly and because there is cooperation between the immigrant communities and the NYPD is consistently getting the information they need to stop crime,” de Blasio said.
For the first quarter, all serious crimes were down 5.2 percent over 2016, with murders dropping 10.3 percent and shootings decreasing 22 percent, officials noted. For the month of March, the decreases were greater, with major crimes such as burglary, homicide, robbery and rape down 8.8 percent. Shootings also were down 28 percent for March compared to last year’s period.
The latest crime declines cap months of steady decreases in a two-decades long historic city trend that has seen homicides drop from a high of 2,245 in 1989 to the current yearly total of just 62.
The modern era of police record keeping began in 1994 when the CompStat system became active. Before that, police records weren’t kept in a consistent way.
Chief Dermot Shea, the top NYPD crime strategist and numbers cruncher, attributed the record-breaking declines to the coalescing of policing strategies such as community policing and precision tactics in going after the hard core offenders and gangs.
“All of these strategies are coming together quite nicely,” said Shea, who also gave credit to the city’s prosecutors for coordinating their tactics with police.
Shea noted that shooting incidents in March were down, from 67 last year to 48 this year, which he attributed in part to the NYPD’s continuing gun arrests and gang crackdown.
The significant reductions in homicides and shootings could push the city to record lows in both categories, based on the current trends. O’Neill said he was confident that old yearly records, 333 homicides and 998 shootings, could be beaten.
“I am always optimistic,” said O’Neill. “I am optimistic we are going to keep pushing those numbers down.