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NYC homicide rate keeps dropping

Crime scene technicians gather outside the building where

Crime scene technicians gather outside the building where a memorial was set up for Lucia and Leo Krim whose nanny, police said, fatally stabbed them before attempting to kill herself. (Oct. 26, 2012) Credit: C.S. Muncy

The number of homicides in New York City dropped in the first quarter of 2013 to nearly a third lower than the same period in 2012, a year that had the smallest number of killings since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

Through Wednesday, the NYPD recorded 63 homicides so far this year, compared with 92 in the same period for 2012, a difference of 32 percent, according to police statistics disclosed Thursday.

The latest results included two reclassified cases involving assault that occurred between 23 and 34 years ago and only recently led to the deaths of the victims from medical complications, according to police. Excluding the two reclassified cases, the homicide decline would be 33.6 percent.

For 2012, New York's murder rate -- the rate per 100,000 population -- was the lowest of any large U.S. city and through March 24, it was a better rate than in the second-largest U.S. city, Los Angeles, crime figures show. Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, had 506 killings in 2012 or a 16 percent increase over the year before, The New York Times has reported.

Thursday, Commissioner Ray Kelly chalked up the continued downward trend in killings this year to "Operation Crew Cut," an anti-gang crew offensive in certain precincts.

"About 30 percent of our shootings are attributable to crews, so if you focus on that universe of events and people, and do it properly, you are going to have results," Kelly said.

So far, shootings are down 25 percent in the city compared with 2012, according to police data.

Most experts have attributed New York City's historic drop in homicides since a high of 2,245 in 1990 to an overall national downward crime trend, hot-spot policing and the controversial stop-and-frisk program. After 2012, when police recorded 419 homicides, the lowest since 390 recorded in 1960, some criminologists have wondered whether the number of killings could drop even lower.

"The question is, Where is the bottom? How low can you go?" said professor Franklin Zimring, of University of California Berkeley School of Law, who has studied New York City crime trends.

Overall serious crime has dropped 3.1 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 2012. The only categories to see an increase were rape, which has increased to 326 from 323, and grand larceny, which rose to 8,939 from 8,700 last year.

In recent months, NYPD officials have said that a spike in grand larcenies last year and this year is being driven by an increase in the theft of smartphones and iPads.

While burglaries have fallen so far this year, they still remain a problem in areas of the Rockaways hard-hit by superstorm Sandy. Burglaries in that area's 100th and 101st precincts have spiked on average by nearly 200 percent this year over the same period in 2012.

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