New York City recorded a double-digit increase in murders during 2010, with more than half the victims shot to death by someone they knew, likely related to drugs, according to preliminary figures from the police department.
As of December 31, there were 532 murders, up 13% on 2009. Rape, robbery and felony assault were all also up, but total crime was down 2%.
New York Police Department officials say the numbers, though a concern, are not overly alarming when put in the context of dramatic crime-fighting gains since 1990. The city had a record 2,245 homicides that year.
The 2010 murder figure is still the fourth lowest since the department began keeping comparable records in 1962. The lowest was last year at 471, followed by 496 in 2007 and 522 in 2008.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said repeatedly that one crime is too many and while he is proud of overall decline during his years in charge, there is still much work to be done.
Among the murder victims, 92% were minorities and 83% were male. More than half the victims and killers had some type of drug background, and 62% were fatal shootings, all occurring mostly outside of Manhattan, according to department figures.
Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said crime must concern every citizen – even if isn’t in their backyard.
“Citywide stats can be misleading. If you go into the heart of the hub of criminal activity, it’s still extremely dangerous, and the residents there feel that, know that,” he said.
“If you’re an African-American, male teenager in Brooklyn north or the Bronx, you’re at much higher risk than other people.”
Large parts of the city were never very dangerous, O’Donnell said, and they remain safe. But violent crime has settled in some communities, and that’s the real concern.