A bit of good news as the passing of 2011 nears: homicides were down five percent for the year, the overall crime rate was flat, and fires killed just 64 people, the second lowest number of fire fatalities since 1916, the mayor’s office says. But the neighborhood crime numbers reveal several troubled areas, where crime jumped sharply.
In a rare moment of rhetorical restraint, the mayor’s announcement noted that “near record levels for public safety were maintained in 2011.” (Usually, these press releases tell us New York is the “safest large city in America.”)
Just over 500 people fell victim to homicide, the third lowest total since 1963. Overall, citywide major felonies through December 18 were almost exactly at the 2010 level, the chief culprit being an 8 percent increase in felony assaults.
As for the relatively low number of fatal fires, the city credited faster response times by fire trucks and ambulances. Between 1992 and 2002, the city averaged about 140 fire deaths a year. From 2002 through 2011, the city averaged about 88 deaths a year. In addition, the number of structure fires dropped by six percent.
Mayor Bloomberg credited the police and fire services, saying the numbers are “a powerful reminder of just how successful they are.”And Police Commissioner Ray Kelly declared that the biggest crime declines took place in poor neighborhoods with the highest crime rates. Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano credited the hard work of his firefighters and paramedics.
While the Police Department attributed the increase in felony assaults to a state law change which reclassified strangulation in the second degree from a misdemeanor to a felony, there were some areas where crime rose sharply against the citywide trend.
The 100th Precinct in the Rockaways section of Queens saw a whopping 50 percent increase in crime, fueled by jumps in robbery, assault, burglary and grand larceny. Burglaries alone jumped from 54 in 2010 to 132 in 2011.
The 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn saw crime jump by 14 percent, and by 30 percent over the past two years, led by increases in robbery, assault, burglary and grand larceny.
The 67th Precinct in East Flatbush, Brooklyn sustained a 13 percent increase in crime, largely via big jumps in robberies and assaults. It was the second double digit increase in two years.
The 113th Precinct in Jamaica, Queens suffered a 12 percent jump in crime, as a result of increases in rape, robbery assault, and burglary.
Brooklyn’s 61st Precinct, which encompasses Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend suffered an 8 percent increased, led by sharp jumps in homicide, rape, robbery and assault. Murders more than doubled in that area in 2011. Robberies and burglaries were each up by more than 25 percent.
A 48 percent jump in burglaries drove a 7 percent increase in crime in Washington Heights’ 34th Precinct.
East New York, Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct, the largest in the city, saw an 7 percent increase, fueled by assaults and grand larcenies.
The NYPD crime numbers also show some interesting long term trends. For example, complaints of forgery, fraud and identity theft have basically doubled since 2000. Felonies related to the possession of dangerous weapons have also almost doubled over the past ten years, and misdemeanor weapons possession cases have almost tripled.
In sum, the fact that the overall crime rate is flat could be an indication that after so many years of declines, the city is turning a corner in some neighborhoods toward a period of increasing crime, particularly suggested by the rise in economic crimes (burglary, grand larceny) and violent street crime (robberies, assaults). We’ll have to wait and see what 2012 brings.