Though the crime rate continues to slide in New York City, the number
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
the police union and local community groups.