New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 murders in 2007, the lowest annual rate in four decades, according to police department figures.

There had been 428 killings this year as of 18 November, compared to 511 at the same point last year. Murders peaked in 1990, when 2,262 killings were recorded, making New York the murder capital of the US. According to the New York Times, of the 212 murders in 2007 analysed so far, only 35 were committed by a stranger. Most of the killings involved disputes between family members, criminals or rival drug gangs.

A majority of both assailants and victims had previously been arrested, the New York Times reported, and more than half were black. Of the 412 people attacked this year, more than two-thirds were shot, the paper reports. The other 16 murder victims recorded this year died of injuries received in previous years. Violent crime rates in the city of more than 8 million people dropped in the first half of the year by 5%, according to official figures.

The murder rate for this year is the lowest seen since the current system of record-keeping began in 1963. Differences in the way crimes were recorded makes it impossible to compare the data with records dating from before then. The soaring murder rate of the late 1980s and early 1990s was largely a result of turf wars between gangs running the crack cocaine trade. The turnaround in violence from the early 1990s was attributed to the city’s zero tolerance policy, which saw police crack down on minor offences and drug dealing.

[Source: BBC News]

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