New York murder rate surges 10 percent

AFP , Tuesday 4 Aug 2015

New York's murder rate jumped more than 10 percent in the last year, forcing the mayor on the defensive Tuesday over any suggestion America's largest city is returning to its dark days.

He spoke hours after a pregnant 19-year-old was shot five times and her unborn baby killed in Brooklyn overnight.

Official statistics released by the police department show 193 murders in New York over the last 12 months compared to 174 in the previous year, an increase of 10.9 percent.

Rapes are also up, to 775 over the year ending July 26, compared to 731 for the previous 12 months.

A police spokesman told AFP that overall crime is down 5.3 percent in the city, following last year's record low.

Asked about the increased murder rate and what he would say to some who believe the city is going downhill, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters: "Look at the facts and stop the hysteria."

"We do, did, have an uptick in murders, there's no question about it. I believe we are going to turn that around," he said.

Last year marked the lowest number of murders in New York in half a century, a fact which de Blasio stressed. "A small number of additional murders looms large percentage wise," he admitted.

An increase in violent crime in June saw hundreds of police officers ordered off desks and back onto the streets.

It was the second year running that rising crime has forced desk officers back onto the streets.

De Blasio said police were doing "an extraordinary job" and that the extra deployments had already brought down shootings, adding that he expected the murder rate to soon decline too.

"We have fewer shootings year to date at this very moment than we had last year," he said.

Rising crime -- particularly gang-related shootings -- is a sensitive subject in a city where rates fell steadily under previous mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani.

There are currently 34,500 police officers in New York. The city has a population of more than 8.4 million.

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