N.Y. streets aren't that mean, latest crime figures show

Crime is down across the nation but even more so in New York, yet again.

The number of burglaries, assaults, rapes, and murders dropped 2 percent nationwide and 2.7 percent in the state of New York, according to the FBI.

Compared with 1994, overall violent crime in the state and New York City has fallen more than 50 percent. That bumps up the state to the sixth safest in the nation, and allows the city to retain its title as "safest big city."

For New York's families, workers, and local entrepreneurs, the continuation of the downward crime trend that started 11 years ago is a "major relief" - tinged with a note of caution that much crime-fighting work remains to be done.

"I'm very glad to hear the statistics are going down, particularly because it's almost impossible to get burglary insurance," says Melissa Nettles, owner of Digity Pix, a shop that turns personal digital photos into coffee-table books.

Digity Pix opened only 1-1/2 weeks ago in Brooklyn's Park Slope. It's in a part of the neighborhood that a decade ago was dangerous even to walk in and is now called "emerging." Ms. Nettles wants to be sure that positive trend continues - as do state and city officials.

In releasing the new statistics, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) - who is said to be eyeing a run for president in 2008 - made sure to note that much more can be done.

"To continue this unprecedented reduction in crime, we must do everything in our power to give police officers and community leaders the tools they need to keep the people of New York safe," the governor said in a statement. "There are a number of legislative initiatives, including expanding the ability of law enforcement and mental-health professionals to civilly commit sexually violent predators, strengthening Megan's Law, and expanding the DNA Databank, which, if made law, would make our streets and neighborhoods even safer." He called on the state legislature to act on those initiatives.

Nationwide, the rates of all violent crimes - measured as the number of crimes for every 100,000 people - is at a 30-year low, the FBI data show.

Nettles, for one, hopes her local precinct will take the good news as a call to be even more vigilant.

"It would be scary if it would be back to the '80s," she says. "And it would also be nice to be able to get burglary insurance."

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