New York City crime rates at record low: police

NEW YORK Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:44pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - This year has been the safest in New York City in more than four decades, with the murder rate down to levels not seen since the early 1960s, police said on Monday.

As of Sunday, 461 murders had been committed, down from 516 in 2008 and the lowest number since comparable record-keeping began in 1963, the New York Police Department said.

Nationwide, statistics suggest the United States will have seen a drop in violent crime for a third year in a row. Last week, the FBI reported violent crime, including murder and robbery, dropped 4.4 percent in the first half of 2009.

The FBI also said New York was the safest U.S. big city in 2009.

Crime in New York has been falling for several years in a decline widely attributed to a "broken windows" strategy of no tolerance for even the smallest infraction and the system of identifying and addressing problem areas.

In announcing the 2009 statistics, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also gave credit to his efforts to clamp down on illegal guns.

This was "a year for the record books," Bloomberg said.

Rape, robbery and burglary rates were down from 2008 but felony assaults ticked up 2 percent, police said.

The announcement came as the police department inducted 250 new officers into the force, one of the smallest batches of new hires in recent memory, spokesman Paul Browne said.

The number of New York police officers is about 34,000, down from 40,800 in 2001, a span of time in which crime rates have fallen, police said.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Bill Trott)

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