Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crime declines in New York state, Westchester, Rockland; Putnam unchanged

Crime declines in New York state, Westchester, Rockland; Putnam unchanged

Gannett News Service

ALBANY - New York has become the fourth safest state in the nation and the safest large state in country, according to 2007 FBI crime statistics released today by state officials.

Rockland's reported serious crime dropped 5.6 percent last year and Westchester's 5.4 percent, according to the statistics. Putnam's rate remained the same as in 2006.

The state Department of Criminal Justice Services said that New York has had a reduction in overall crime for 17 consecutive years. Crime dipped 3.7 percent statewide compared to 2006.

What has pleased authorities is that the decrease in crime, for the first time since 1993, has been driven by a decline in areas outside New York City.

In the 17 counties outside of New York City that account for approximately 80 percent of the crime occurring upstate, crime decreased nearly 10 percent between 2006 and 2007. Also, firearm-related incidents dropped more than 17 percent in those counties, and shootings involving injury declined nearly 15 percent.

Some counties had significant drops: Livingston had a 20 percent decline; Broome had a 9.4 percent decline; Monroe had a 9.3 percent decline; Dutchess had a 7 percent decline; Tompkins had a 10 percent decline; and Westchester and Rockland had 5-plus percent declines.

In Chemung County, crime grew by 1 percent.

"This FBI report illustrates the tremendous progress New York has made in fighting crime and vindicates our intelligence-based crime-fighting model," said Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Denise O'Donnell.

According to the FBI report issued earlier this week, New York recorded the fourth lowest "index" crime rate in the nation in 2007 - trailing only South Dakota, New Hampshire and North Dakota. The seven "index" crimes are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

Also, crime in New York dropped at a greater rate than in the rest of the country.

But historically, crime outside New York City has increased. For example, counties outside New York City now account for 56 percent of the crime statewide compared to 37 percent in 1990.

The problem prompted state officials to start Operation IMPACT under former Gov. George Pataki to put more resources toward counties with high crime rates, including Westchester, Rockland, Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Ulster.

O'Donnell said the state has already opened a crime analysis center in Buffalo and others are planned to open within weeks in Rochester and Syracuse, followed by one in Albany.

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