The new year got off to a deadly start for New York City and the de Blasio administration as the number of homicides from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5 -- eight -- doubled over the first five days of 2013, according to the NYPD.
The homicide numbers are being closely watched by some crime experts as a barometer of the safety of New York in light of the record low of 334 killings last year.
"A week doesn't make a trend but a police department has to be careful because it looks like killings have been around gang activity," said Joseph L. Giacalone, a former NYPD cold case homicide squad commander who teaches and lectures on law enforcement tactics. "There is the threat of retaliation."
The homicide spike doesn't include the highly publicized slaying of Brooklyn businessman Menachem Stark, whose burned body was found outside the five boroughs Saturday in a commercial garbage bin in Great Neck.
On Friday, rapper Mazaradi Fox, also known as Jamal Green, who was closely linked to hip-hop star 50 Cent, was shot dead in Queens during an incident in which three others were wounded. The suspect is still at large.
But while homicides spiked, crime statistics released Monday by the NYPD showed other serious felonies down by a combined 19 percent. Also down in the opening days of 2014 were shootings, which dropped almost 15 percent from 2013.
After his public swearing-in last week, new NYPD Commissioner William Bratton told reporters that he expected blips and swings in crime statistics in the early period of his tenure. The NYPD's CompStat system, which analyzes crime statistics, will quickly address any rise in crime, he said.
"In terms of trying to keep the crime levels low, there will be spikes . . . it will go up from time to time," Bratton said. "But one of the great strengths of the CompStat system in this department is the ability -- with spikes -- you have the ability to quickly find out what causes the spikes."
Giacalone said that because last year's homicide numbers were so low, the chance of killings increasing this year is very high. If the crime trend accelerates, the public may speculate about how the controversy over stop-and-frisk issues may be impacting what police are doing on the street, he said.