New York, Nation Faces Rise in Crime

THE East New York section of Brooklyn is a neighborhood that never quite made it. On the northern boundary is a garbage dump and on the southern boundary there is a cemetery. This year, the neighborhood became infamous. Of New York's total 1,905 murders in 1989, this drug-infested residential area had 97, the highest of any area in the city.

``There is even a deli across the street from the police precinct house that closes at sundown,'' says Mike Santangelo, a reporter for the New York Daily News.

East New York is typical of the city in 1989. According to the New York City crime statistics for '89 released last week, violent crime rose 4 percent from '88.

This is echoed at the national level. Preliminary 1989 figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that all four US regions recorded increases in crime. The Southern and Western states reported a 3 percent increase, Northeastern and Midwestern states had a 2 percent rise.

New York City had the most robberies and murders in the nation, followed by Chicago and Los Angeles. Robbery showed the greatest increase, followed by an increase in murder, aggravated assault, and forcible rape. A total 169,487 such incidents were reported in New York City in 1989.

``A lot of people don't like the stats because they tell them what they don't want to hear, that the streets are violent,'' says Thomas Reppetto, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York.

Mr. Reppetto expected the 1989 New York City 12-month-crime statistics to show that the streets are in a state of chaos. ``The streets have turned into shooting galleries. During the 1940s and '50s, the chances of being murdered in the city were as rare as being hit by lightning,'' he says.

A report that appeared in the December 1989 Journal of Quantitative Criminology showed an ominous trend in the city. From 1977 to 1979, stray bullets accounted for 79 deaths, the report said. From 1986 to 1988, this jumped to 128 deaths.

The statistics show a concentration in areas that are heavily drug infested. Crack is considered a major reason for the record slayings and robberies. Reppetto estimates that almost half of all murders in New York City are drug related.

``I think that reflects that there is a high volume of robbery and assault behavior that goes on in connection with the drug trade,'' agrees Jerome McEllroy, director of the New York City Criminal Justice Agency.

``We have to look at the numbers behind the numbers to adjust our law enforcement to lower the numbers and to respond to particular trends,'' says Lee Jones, a spokesman for New York City Mayor David Dinkins.

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