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State: Homicides hit low; DNA data helped

ALBANY -- The number of homicides in New York State dropped last year to the lowest level in decades to roughly 750, or less than one-third of the killings in 1990, the deadliest year on record, officials said yesterday.

Sean Byrne, the state's acting criminal justice commissioner, told a legislative committee that preliminary data show all crime, including violent crime, declined in 2011. That included a drop of more than 10 percent in homicides compared with 2010.

"Homicides will be at the lowest number reported since statewide crime reporting began 37 years ago," Byrne said. They peaked at 2,606 in 1990.

Byrne noted factors including better crime analysis and follow-up. He told lawmakers that one of the best methods of reducing recidivism is helping former offenders get jobs, and there is some proposed program funding for that next year.

Authorities also say the expanded database of offender DNA samples has helped cut crime. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed roughly doubling the program to include every felony or penal misdemeanor. People convicted of all penal felonies and three dozen misdemeanors now have to give samples of their genetic material from a saliva swab.

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