NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City is on track to record fewer than 300 murders in 2017, marking a steep decline since the early 1990s when the annual death toll exceeded 2,000 people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said efforts by police to improve strained relations in some neighborhoods had helped reduce crime.
As of Sunday, 284 people were murdered in the nation's largest city, down from 329 in the same period in 2016, according to New York Police Department (NYPD) data released this week. All seven major crimes tracked by police, including rape, assault and robbery, showed declines.
Barring a spike in the final week of the year, the number of murders in the city will drop below the 333 recorded in 2014.
Police officials emphasized that murders continued to decline even as the city's population swelled to more 8.5 million.
"The homicide rate per capita is lower than anything we have ever seen," J. Peter Donald, an NYPD spokesman, wrote on Twitter on Thursday. He compared the rate to levels last seen in the 1950s, when there were "1.5 million fewer people living in New York."
The continued decline is in part vindication for de Blasio, a Democrat who campaigned for mayor in 2013 on his opposition to the NYPD's widespread use of "stop and frisk" policy, which led to random searches for drugs and weapons.
That year, a federal judge ruled that the practice was unconstitutional because it disproportionately targeted black and Latino New Yorkers.
Under de Blasio, the tactic's use has been sharply curtailed, and warnings by conservative critics that crime rates would creep back up have proved unfounded.
The mayor attributed the continued crime decline to efforts to foster warmer relationships between police and civilians.
"A lot more people are offering the police tips, are offering information, that stops crimes before they happen in some cases," he told reporters on Thursday.
Fewer than 13,700 robberies have been reported so far in 2017, compared with 15,500 in 2016 and 100,280 in 1990. Serious assaults fell below 20,000, about half the number seen in 1990. Burglaries have dipped below 12,000, compared to 122,055 in 1990.
Police had recorded 1,416 rapes in the year through Sunday, one fewer than the same period last year but above the low in 2009 of 1,205.
The number of people shot in the city, fatally or otherwise, was set to stay below 1,000 for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, with 917 victims recorded so far this year compared to more than 5,700 in 1993.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and David Gregorio)