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NYPD: Crime down but bias offenses see substantial hike

NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill, left, and NYC

NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill, left, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, discuss the spike in bias crimes this year even as overall crime has fallen so far in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert

Crime continued to drop in February for New York City but the five boroughs have experienced a substantial increase in bias incidents driven by a spike in anti-Semitic attacks, officials said Wednesday.

Overall, February saw the lowest number of serious crimes in the modern era of record keeping with 6,630 major felonies, down nearly 10 percent from the level recorded in the same period for 2016, according to NYPD data released Wednesday. The one increase was homicides, with 20 in the month compared to 18 in February of last year.

Combined with January’s results, serious crimes are down 2.8 percent this year from the first two months of 2016. Shootings are down 13.8 percent while homicides have risen for the year so far to 42 from 40 in January and February 2016. The slight homicide increase is mostly driven by the reclassification of eight cases from prior years, officials said, and also included the January death of Det. Steven McDonald, who was paralyzed in a 1986 shooting but continued working for the NYPD.

At a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio and police brass, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill credited the department’s emphasis on community policing and involvement with city neighborhoods for the crime rate’s continued decrease.

“Together with our people in the varied and diverse neighborhoods, it is clicking, it is working,” O’Neill said of community policing. “In reality, it is only a very small percentage of the people in this city who are driving the bulk of violent crime. With precision policing we are identifying those people, those groups — small gangs and crews — and we’re taking them out.”

The site of the news conference — the 114th Precinct in Astoria — has not had a homicide or shooting in the first two months of 2017, officials said.

“We have a lot of momentum on our crime fighting efforts right now, a lot of things going very well,” said Chief of Crime Control Strategies Dermot Shea. He said that years ago, the city once reported 500 shootings a month but in February of this year recorded only 40.

Recapping a surge in hate crimes, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said the city has recorded 24 so far in 2017, a 55-percent spike over 2016. Anti-Semitic incidents are up 94 percent, accounting for 17 of the 24 attacks, he said.

In the subway system, cops have uncovered 11 hate crimes, notably swastika scrawlings, Boyce said, adding that the city has experienced four bomb threats this year against Jewish institutions.

“We believe that is part of a nationwide pattern,” Boyce said of the anti-Semitic attacks. His office has been in communication with the FBI, Boyce said. Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said that police units have increased visits to Jewish centers and will beef up police presence with the approach of the Passover holiday.

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