Recent high-profile killings in Queens — including that of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano and Imam Maulana Akonjee — have for the first time this year helped to push the number of homicides beyond where they were in 2015.
Last week, there were 11 homicides compared with three in the same week in 2015. For the past month there were 39 killings compared to 24 in the prior year, police records show.
Through Sunday, the city had 216 killings, compared to 213 in the same period for last year, an increase of 1.4 percent, according to police statistics. Since the beginning of the year, the number of homicides had been trending much lower than 2015, sometimes down by as much as 45 percent as seen in January.
But as the year progressed, the gap between 2016 and 2015 in homicides has steadily narrowed. 2015 ended with a total of 350 killings, up from 333 in 2014, which was a low in the modern era of the NYPD’s CompStat record keeping.
Because the yearly difference in homicides is so small, experts believe the trend could easily reverse if the pace of killings slows down. But a key difference is that in some of the recent high-profile cases, the victims were people without criminal records, ex-detective Joseph Giacalone said. “The last couple of homicides, the imam and his assistant, and the jogger, these are not career criminals, it is not bad guys killing bad guys ... here we see ordinary people getting killed,” he said. “These are stories that frighten the city.”
Vetrano, 30, was strangled on Aug. 2 as she jogged in Spring Creek Park near her home in Howard Beach. Akonjee, 55, and his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, were shot dead execution-style on Aug. 13 as they walked in traditional Muslim garb at the corner of Liberty Avenue and 79th Street.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the imam, Maulana Akonjee.