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Official says budget cuts may lead to more homicides

New York City Police Academy graduates salute as

New York City Police Academy graduates salute as they are now the newest members of the NYPD. (December 26, 2006)

A spike this year in citywide homicides has raised a warning by one city official that further budget cuts may lead to more lives being lost.

Latest numbers released by the NYPD Friday, through March 24, show there have been 103 homicides citywide, compared with 86 in the same period last year - an increase of almost 20 percent.

"If the state does not act quickly, New York City will be forced to further cut police officers and Albany's incompetence will directly lead to lives being lost," said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who chairs the public safety committee.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted some of the increase in homicides this year was attributable to the deaths of five people in an arson attack in Brooklyn last month. He also asked the public to keep the increase in perspective: the three-month total for killings still amounts to among the lowest levels in 42 years.

At a City Council hearing earlier this month, however, Kelly said the NYPD expects to lose almost 1,300 officers in the upcoming fiscal year and drop to a strength of 32,817 cops, a level not seen since the early 1990s. This week the city's top budget official said lower Albany revenue forecasts meant a possible additional loss of up to 3,000 cops.

Vallone said fewer cops will lead to an increase in homicides.

While Kelly said his department is on top of the homicide situation and that the public shouldn't be concerned, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded a note of concern during a radio interview Friday.

"Still very low, but still up, and that's one of the problems when the number is very low, that a small increase is a big percentage, but it is worrisome," Bloomberg told WOR/710 AM radio host John Gambling.

Vallone told Newsday a loss of cops would mean a dilution of street policing because fewer officers were available to interact with potential lawbreakers and people carrying illegal handguns.

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