New York's murder rate rockets

The murder rate in New York City, which plunged in recent years to levels not seen since the 1960s, rose 12.4 percent in the first three months of this year, according to statistics released Tuesday.

Overall violent crime, however, was down 7.5 percent.

As of Sunday, there were 190 murders in the city this year, compared with 169 during the same period in 1999.

The numbers were worst in the Bronx, where 61 people were killed this year, compared with 38 in the same period last year. Murders were down in Manhattan and up only slightly in the other boroughs.

Garry McCarthy, who oversees the NYPD's crime control strategies, disputed some published reports speculating that the shooting death of Amadou Diallo last year by four police officers had contributed to the murder increase. Diallo was shot 19 times as he stood unarmed in his Bronx apartment vestibule.

It had been reported that some officers had been reluctant to make arrests for fear of being publicly criticised.

"The enforcement numbers don't bear that out," McCarthy said. "Arrests are up."

McCarthy said that last month more police were ordered to patrol the Bronx, and in the last two weeks, there have been three murders in the that borough - the same as last year.

The drop in overall violent crime - which includes murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, assaults, grand larcenies and auto thefts - mirrors a dramatic drop in violent crime since 1990, when murders were at an all-time high of 2,290.

Criminal experts have attributed that decrease to the aging of baby boomers, a keener sense of community, pride in good citizenship and the decreasing use of crack cocaine.

In 1998, the number of murders in New York City was down to 629, but it rose last year to 667.

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