New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year, by far the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963, the New York Times reports. With about half the killings analyzed, only 35 were found to be committed by strangers. If that trend holds, fewer than 100 homicide victims in New York City this year will have been strangers to their assailants. The vast majority died in disputes with friends or acquaintances, with rival drug gang members or – to a lesser degree – with romantic partners, spouses, parents and others. The low number of killings by strangers belies the common imagery that people are vulnerable to arbitrary attacks on the streets, or die in robberies that turn fatal.
In the eyes of some criminologists, the police will be hard pressed to drive the killing rate much lower, since most killings occur now within the four walls of an apartment or the confines of close relationships. The homicide figure continues a remarkable slide since 1990, when New York recorded its greatest number of killings in a single year, 2,245, and when untold scores of the victims were killed in violence between strangers. As of Sunday, overall crime was down 6.47 percent, compared to the same period last year. It is common around the U.S. to find in killings involving acquaintances that those involved are not family members but criminals or drug gang members, said David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the 412 New York City killings this year, the number of people with previous arrests for narcotics was striking: 196 victims and 149 assailants. And 77 percent of the assailants had a previous arrest history, while 70 percent of the victims did.