Murders in New York City rose in 2019, defying long-term decline in crime rate

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York experienced a 7.8 percent jump in murders last year, though the number of homicides in the country’s largest city remained low on an historical basis as the overall major crime rate extended a decades-long drop, authorities said on Monday.

The number of murders rose in 2019 to 318, the most since 2016, the New York Police Department said in its annual crime statistics report. Robberies, felony assaults and shootings also rose modestly in 2019, while the number of rapes and subway crimes declined.

Officials said most of last year’s increase in murders and shootings was the result of statistical fluctuations, reflecting in part the reclassification of more than two dozen homicides, some of which occurred in other years.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted that the downward trend in the city’s crime rate was irreversible.

“Not only are we going to sustain that progress, we’re going to build upon that progress, and we are never going back to the years when this city wasn’t safe,” he told more than 500 recruits at the city’s police academy.

The overall rate of major felony crimes dropped again in keeping with a long-term trend, slipping 0.9% last year to a record-low of about 95,500 incidents, the report said. Burglary and grand larceny accounted for more than half of the total.

Since 1990, major crimes have fallen 81.9% in a period that spanned the administrations of four mayors, both Republican and Democratic, including Michael Bloomberg, who switched from being a Republican to an independent during his three terms in office.

Despite last year’s jump, murders were still 85.9% below 1990 levels.

The declining crime rate and expectations that it will continue figured prominently in de Blasio’s decision nearly two years ago to close the troubled Rikers Island jail complex within 10 years.

Bucking the downward trend was a jump in hate crimes last year, led by a surge in anti-Semitic incidents, which rose 26%. About three-quarters of the incidents involved graffiti, usually painting swastikas on the walls of buildings and vehicles, officials said.

The number of reported rapes, which had soared by 24% in 2018, declined by 2.5% last year to 1,760. The NYPD had attributed the 2018 increase mostly to heightened awareness and a higher reporting rate inspired by the #MeToo movement. Since 1990, rapes were down by 43.7%.

Crime in the city’s subway system and on buses declined by 3.4% in 2019, after a modest increase a year earlier.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty)

Time Warner building in N.Y. evacuated due to suspicious package: police

Members of the public and media are pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Time Warner Building in New York City was evacuated on Wednesday morning after a suspicious package that had been mailed was found in the CNN mail room, New York police and CNN said.

The New York Police Department’s bomb squad “believes they have this under control” and that the package appears to be an explosive device, CNN reported.

A member of the New York Police Department with a dog is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

A member of the New York Police Department with a dog is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

The package contained a device that looked like a pipe, similar to those found at other locations, including the homes of former President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

There were wires in the package found at the CNN mail room, the network reported.

Two new anchors were on air shortly after 10 a.m. when a fire alarm was audible to viewers, and the network went on a commercial break. After the commercials, reporters from the CNN bureau in New York were seen on air outside on the street.

The NYPD said the package to CNN was reported to police at 9:53 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

New York police poised to thwart New Year’s Eve suicide bombers

New York Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau members stand in Times Square to provide security ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations in Manhattan, New York, U.S. December 28, 2017

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Police Department is providing officers with specialized training to stop any suicide bombers at Sunday’s New Year’s Eve celebration, when up to 2 million people will flood the streets of Times Square, officials said on Thursday.

The stepped-up training is in response to an attempted bombing in a Times Square subway station walkway on Dec. 11. It comes on top of increasingly stringent security for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The New York Police Department will also deploy observation teams trained to spot snipers, increase the number of explosive-detecting dogs and position more officers throughout the area this year.

Police have said they will incorporate lessons learned from what they have labeled as three terrorist attacks in the city in the past 15 months, in addition to their ongoing analysis of all attacks worldwide.

That intelligence will form part of the massive security operation for the “ball drop” celebration, a tradition that dates to 1907 and is now televised around the world.

“You will see an increase in heavy weapons, bomb squad personnel, radiological detection teams, and our technology to include over 1,000 cameras in and around the area of Times Square for the event,” the NYPD’s chief of counterterrorism, James Waters, told a news conference, two days before the event.

Officers involved in the New Year’s Eve security operation will receive a tactical bulletin and a training video on suicide bombers that they will be able to review on their department-issued phones starting Friday.

“We owe it to the cops to give them some kind of guidelines,” Waters said.

The training material will include instructions on protecting bystanders if officers suspect someone has a bomb and guidance on apprehending and disarming suspects with the assistance of the bomb squad, he said.

Police will also be on the lookout for snipers in response to the mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival on Oct. 1, when a 64-year-old American opened fire from his 32nd-floor hotel room, killing 58 people and wounding some 500.

Detectives posted in hotels will keep an eye on guests, and additional emergency services and critical response teams will be on hand, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

O’Neill declined to say how many of the department’s 36,000 officers will work on New Year’s Eve, in order to keep would-be attackers guessing.

People who want to see the New Year’s Eve musical acts and other entertainment up close in Times Square will have to pass by dogs trained to detect explosives and heavily armed officers, go through a magnetometer to check for weapons, have their bags inspected, and then repeat all those steps a second time.

Police will again use dump trucks filled with sand, police cars and cement blocks to close streets starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday. About 125 parking garages in the vicinity will be emptied of all cars and sealed.

Even so, police acknowledged a possible suicide bomber could manage to get close to large crowds of people before the checkpoints are set up, as evident by the Dec. 11 attack.

On that day, police said, a Bangladeshi man set off a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body in a subway pedestrian tunnel beneath Times Square, wounding himself and two bystanders.

Asked how to stop someone with such an intent, Waters said, “As a last resort: deadly physical force.”

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)