Seth Wenig / AP
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speak to reporters after a Police Academy graduation ceremony Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in New York.
Homicides and shootings in New York are at their lowest in a half-century, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday.
Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly credited stepped-up policing for the 19.6 percent drop in homicides (from 515 last year to 414 through Friday) and the 15.9 percent decline in overall shootings (from 1,608 last year to 1,353).
That's the fewest homicides since the city started keeping such statistics in 1963, and it's dramatically lower than the record high of 2,245 set in 1990.
The most recent FBI figures show that homicides have been falling in most major cities in recent years, but the drop in New York far outpaces the national average decline of 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, the last full year for which federal figures are available.
Kelly said officers had taken 8,000 weapons "out of the hands of people we stop, 800 of them illegal handguns," while Bloomberg singled out the city's participation in Operation Impact, a 2003 state initiative that pairs new police recruits with veteran officers in specific high-crime areas, as a particular success.
"The fact that the safest big city in America is safer than ever is a testament to the hard work and determination of the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day — and it also reflects our commitment to doing everything possible to stop gun violence," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Neither man specifically mentioned the city's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which allows officers to search someone as he or she leaves a private building if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is likely to commit a crime.
The policy is under legal challenge from civil liberties groups, which contend that police use it as a pretext to stop and search anyone without cause and contend in court documents that three-quarters of all New Yorkers searched under it are African-American or Latino. A trial is set for March.
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