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NYPD: Cautious optimism with falling homicide rate so far in 2019

New York City has seen killings plummet in 2019 and is poised to record the fewest since before World War II, according to the latest NYPD statistics, but department officials remained cautious Monday after a weekend triple homicide in Staten Island.

“We are not declaring victory or taking victory laps because it is six months into the year," said Chief Patrick Conry, an NYPD spokesman. "We have to be vigilant and stay on it.”

The city had recorded 125 killings in 2019 through Sunday, down 16.1 percent from 149 in the same period in 2018, according to the latest Compstat statistics. Nearly halfway through the year and if current trends continue, the city could see 275 homicides for the year, a level last seen in 1940, according to historical police records.

The drop so far this year is even more when factoring out a relatively high number of reclassified cases from years earlier but now deemed homicides.

As of Friday, the city counted 17 of the reclassified cases in the 2019 total. Excluding those cases, the percentage drop would be about 25 percent. The city notched 295 homicides in 2018 with 13 reclassified deaths. The historic high was 2,245 killings in 1990.

The NYPD has only tallied homicides consistently since about 1962, with the modern era for all police recordkeeping beginning in 1994 when Compstat became operational, officials said. 

Despite the down trajectory of homicides, NYPD officials stopped short of celebrating the trend at the year's halfway mark, pointing to the weekend triple homicide in Staten Island as evidence they must keep their guard up. On Sunday, authorities charged Shane Walker, 36, with murder, manslaughter and arson in connection with the deaths of his wife, Alla Ausheva, 37, and their two children, Elia, 3, and Ivan 2. The bodies of Ausheva, an airman with the Air National Guard assigned to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, and the two toddlers, were found Saturday in their Staten Island home, the NYPD said.

Police said Ausheva, a native of Russia, came to the United States years ago after she and her former spouse won the immigration visa lottery. President Barack Obama swore in Ausheva as a U.S. citizen.

Former NYPD Det. Sgt. Joseph Giacalone, who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said domestic homicides such as those on Staten Island over the weekend are more difficult to prevent than gang killings.

But in terms of the street violence, Giacalone said, the NYPD has kept a lid on things because the size of the police force — 36,000 sworn officers — allows commanders to quickly shift officers to violent hot spots, particularly those driven by gangs.

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