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NYC officials say crime decline continues

Despite statistics expected to show a slight increase in major crimes by the end of the year, city officials declared Wednesday that New York City's historic, two-decade decline in crime isn't over.

The latest statistics compiled by the New York Police Department show 104,659 murders, robberies and other serious crimes were reported throughout the five boroughs through Dec. 25 -- up 0.4 percent over the same period last year.

But at a news conference Wednesday touting the city's public safety record, Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that "a genuine apples-to-apples comparison shows that serious crime is actually down this year." The explanation: A change in the law in late 2010 reclassified misdemeanor choking offenses to felonies, fueling a 7.6 percent spike in felony assaults -- to 18,117 from 16,842 -- this year. City and police officials contend the increase has distorted this year's overall rate.

Major crimes would be down 1.2 percent under the previous criteria, Bloomberg said.

"Applying that same consistent yardstick, this is the 21st consecutive year in which major felonies have decreased in our city," the mayor said.

City officials also projected that the murder rate -- considered in law enforcement circles as the most accurate barometer of crime -- will drop at least 4 percent in 2011.

There were 499 murders reported through Dec. 25 compared with 523 in the same span in 2010.

In 1990, the last year overall major crime was up, the city had a record high 2,245 homicides.

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