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Crime Falls in NYC, But Rises Sharply Elsewhere in New York

July 01, 2002
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Crime Falls in NYC, But Rises Sharply Elsewhere in New York

by David M. Halbfinger, New York Times

Though the crime rate continues to slide in New York City, the number of homicides, rapes and robberies rose sharply outside the five boroughs last year, particularly in a few upstate cities, according to new statistics recently posted on the Internet by state officials.

All told, violent crimes fell by 9.9 percent in New York City in 2001, but rose elsewhere in the state by 2.3 percent, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services reported.

The biggest disparity between the city and the rest of the state was in homicides: in the city, the number reported to the police fell by 3.6 percent last year, while reported killings surged by 14.1 percent throughout the rest of the state.

The statewide statistics come with two asterisks, however. First, officials caution that the statewide numbers are estimates that are based on actual police reports in New York City, the six next largest cities and nearly 500 other municipalities and agencies. The statistics may change, therefore, once data trickles in later this year from several dozen other locales.

Second, a single city — Buffalo — is almost entirely responsible for the striking change in the number of homicides outside New York City, which jumped to 266 from 233. Spurred by a record 19 killings in May 2001, Buffalo recorded 64 homicides last year, up from 39 in 2000, according to the state's new data.

The Buffalo police commissioner, Rocco J. Diina, called the city's 2001 homicide total an anomaly, and said that so far this year the murder rate had returned to the levels of other recent years, when the city typically recorded 30 to 40 killings annually.

Mr. Diina said the May murder total, which briefly prompted the city's homicide detectives to seek reinforcements from the state police, had causes ranging from drug-gang battles to a few random multiple killings to the inexplicable. "That's like asking why did Sammy Sosa hit so many homers in June, and not in July," he said.

Buffalo also had a 30 percent surge in rapes, to 229 last year from 176 in 2000. But Mr. Diina said nothing should be read into that swing, since the annual total has hovered around 200 for years, and was as high as 269 as recently as 1996. The 53 additional rapes in Buffalo in 2001 accounted for much of the increase of 115 rapes — or 8.1 percent — in areas of the state outside the five boroughs of New York City.

In Syracuse, meanwhile, robberies jumped by 25 percent, to 567, while motor vehicle thefts climbed 15.8 percent, to 901.

More broadly, criminologists have cited the bleak economic picture in much of upstate and western New York as a main factor in the region's crime troubles, which have affected Lockport, Niagara Falls and other parts of Niagara County, among other places. The Niagara County sheriff, Thomas A. Beilein, reported earlier this month that major crimes increased 23 percent last year, with larcenies up 34 percent in the same period.

Police departments, of course, are not immune to fiscal pressures, and despite Buffalo's troubling violent-crime totals for last year, Mr. Diina said that he would lay off 32 police officers; the force has roughly 900 officers. He has also consolidated and disbanded several units and demoted some detectives back to patrol duties, moves that have drawn opposition from the police union and local community groups.

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