Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday praised the city's police and fire departments for making 2011 one of the city's safest years ever. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
The mayor announced on Wednesday that crime has remained low in New York City this year and that the five boroughs had their second fewest fire deaths on record.
If the murder rate is the measure of public safety, then New York has hardly ever been safer. Only 499 murders were reported through December 25 this year.
“We’re on course to record just over 500 murders during 2011, the third-lowest total since good records have been kept,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Wednesday.
Indeed, only two years saw fewer than 500 city murders — 2007 with 471 murders and 2009 with 496 murders. The rate has trended downward since 1990, when it peaked at 2,245 murders.
"I think the decline in murders is the best indicators of just how safe this city has become," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Still, statistics unveiled by the mayor showed an uptick in some categories of crime. When it comes to seven major felony categories, 104,659 incidents were reported through December 25 this year, which is a 0.4 percent increase from the same period in 2010.
There are also increases in rape and sexual assault, which city officials partly attribute to an increased willingness of victims to come forward.
City officials also say that in 2010 misdemeanor choking offenses were reclassified as felonies, and they say that contributed to the increases in felonies.
Under the previous classification, according to Bloomberg, the major crimes would have been 1.2 percent lower than in 2010, marking 21 consecutive years in which major felony crime has declined.
That is despite a sputtering economy, budget cuts that have resulted in fewer police officers and a focus on counterterrorism.
Kelly also credits programs like Operation Impact, which floods high-crime areas with rookie officers.
“You don’t have a reduction in crime when you have 6,000 fewer police officers unless you’re proactive,” said the commissioner.
Year-end figures also show fewer fires and fire deaths. There are 64 so far this year, which would be the second-lowest in history, compared to 62 in 2010.
"We're saving more lives by preventing more fires from occurring. And when the fires do start, we're getting there faster than before. And once on the scene, we're doing a more effective job of preserving life and property," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.
Indeed, statistics show both fire and ambulance response times at or near record lows.
The mayor credits the success of the police and fire departments for the city's growing population and surging tourism numbers.
"Even working under tight budget constrains, our finest and bravest have once again kept New York as our nation's safest big city," Bloomberg said.
The challenge is to continue the trend with tough fiscal times expected to continue in 2012.