New York City’s crime rate has increased unexpectedly, worrying residents who live in the big city considered one of the safest in the world.
The murder rate in New York City rose by nearly 14 per cent in 2010, up from 471 to 536.
Other violent crime has also gone up, with rapes increasing by 26.7 per cent and robberies by 4.89 per cent.
Residents in New York’s notorious Bronx neighbourhood are reeling from the figures.
The community was badly beset by the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, and as a result, made a huge effort to bring crime down.
But it is in the Bronx where crime has seemingly increased. In parts of the neighbourhood, murder rates rose by as much as 28 per cent last year.
Trauma surgeon Dr Ernest Patti told Sky News Online that trauma cases at his Bronx hospital St Barnabas spike when gangs are initiating new recruits.
He said: “We have noticed an increase in violent injuries such as gunshot wounds over the past few months.
“Mainly they involve wounds that one would think were meant to kill.”
The city’s public housing developments in such places as the Bronx and Harlem, churn out a majority of the crime, according to New York’s Daily News.
According to figures obtained by the newspaper, murders in public housing went up by 17.7 per cent last year compared to the year before, with robberies up 4.4 per cent.
In the Bronx and across the city, statistics show that the majority of the victims and perpetrators of such crimes were young, black or Hispanic men, many with a criminal record, and many who knew each other.
Anti-gun campaigner Gloria Cruz, whose niece, Naiesha was killed by a stray bullet in a playground, put the increase down to economic decline. She said it had a marked effect on the demographic, who can often feel marginalised anyway.
She told Sky News Online: “I think the economy is driving people to a point where they feel desperate, they feel trapped like a mouse in a maze – they don’t know which way to turn, what to do, and some of them are really losing control.
“This is a strong, proud, hard working community and we’ve got to teach our kids that there are other ways to solve problems than using violence.”
Former gang member Oliver Martinez was just 16 when he went to prison for 11 years after shooting and killing another young man.
He is trying to dissuade other young men tempted by gang life from taking the same path.
He said: “To any kid out there who’s going through what I’ve been through? Life ain’t over. You don’t have to do the things I did, it’s your life.”
The New York Police Department stressed that in spite of the increases, crime rates in the city are still historically very low.
In a statement, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul J Browne said: “At the end of 2002, the Bloomberg Administration’s first year in office, murder in New York City fell below 600 for first time since 1963, and has remained below 600 since then.
“Overall crime is down 2 per cent this year compared to last year’s record overall low.”