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Despite enduring its deadliest terror attack since 9/11, New York City is on pace to record its lowest murder total in decades.

The homicide drop mirrors an across-the-board reduction in major crimes over 2016, statistics released by the police department show.

There have been 278 homicides this year, as of December 17, compared with 325 at the same point last year, a drop of 14.5%, NYPD records show. Among those killed were eight victims of a Halloween attack on a busy Manhattan bike path.

The tally last peaked in the early 1990s, with more than 2,000 killings annually, according to police figures provided to CNN.

Numbers of felony assaults, burglaries and auto theft cases also decreased in 2017, compared with the prior year, along with a 10% drop in robberies, data show.

“We’ve seen the lowest number of index crimes here since the ’50s,” police Commissioner James O’Neill said at a recent news conference, referring to the crime categories. “With informed, engaged and empowered communities, we’re going to keep pushing those numbers down even further.”

The number of times police fired their guns during an incident is lower than last year, as well. Officers had fired their weapons in 23 incidents as of December 17, compared with 37 incidents in 2016, Det. Sophia Mason said.

O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio credited the recorded crime reductions to a focus on neighborhood policing, a strategy the NYPD started to implement in 2015.

“We are giving our cops the opportunity to make relationships and build on those relationships,” O’Neill said this month. “Nobody knows what’s going on better on a block than the people that live there, the people that worship there, the people that work there.”

Focusing on neighborhoods

Under the neighborhood policing model, each precinct has two “neighborhood coordination officers” who govern the precinct, plus 12 “sector” officers, O’Neill said. All are assigned to work regularly in the same precinct, rather than shuffling around, so they get to know the people and issues in their own communities.

“We’re giving them back the ability to make decisions,” O’Neill said. “No one knows better than the people patrolling those sectors and the people that live there what’s actually happening.”

Precincts are divided along neighborhood boundaries, rather than crossing them, he said.

Of the city’s 77 precincts, 51 have operated under this model since 2015, and recorded crimes have decreased at faster rates there, O’Neill said, adding that he hopes to implement the strategy citywide next year.

“My vision is to fully implement neighborhood policing, and that’s to give our police officers the opportunity, the training, and the time to communicate, establish relationships, work together to identify problems, and work together to solve problems,” he said.

Targeting gangs

O’Neill cited a focus on curbing gang violence as another reason crime statistics have improved. Precinct detectives work with comrades who focus on vice crimes, narcotics and gun violence to reduce gang activity, he said.

“We’re also continuing to target gangs and crews who commit the majority of the violence in New York City,” O’Neill said. “I think that, in conjunction with neighborhood policing, that’s why you’re seeing the crime numbers go down.”

Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, said he believes part of the decrease in gang violence is because of technology, which has made it easier for police to target suspected gang members. Guardian Angels is a volunteer safety patrol organization — separate from the NYPD — that started in New York City.

“Nowadays, as a gang task force member, I can sit in an office, and all I have to do is look at social networking,” Sliwa told CNN. “The gangs are their own worst enemy. They post everything.”

More work to do

Sliwa acknowledged that crime statistics have improved overall, and he credits the NYPD for that. But he believes the city has become safer for men, not women. In his work, he still sees sexual assault and harassment as major issues that need to be more heavily addressed, especially for women riding the subway.

“It’s because there are so many pervs who have sought sanctuary in the subway,” Sliwa said. “Now our focus because of the problems of assaults against women is on the subways. It’s become a sort of perv heaven.”

Sliwa and his organization started an all-female volunteer task force called Perv Busters to focus on this problem. These volunteers patrol the subways, filling in as extra eyes and ears for police and occasionally making citizen arrests.

At a recent press conference, O’Neill acknowledged the importance of investigating each claim that is brought to police attention.

“It’s important that each rape, no matter what the classification is, is fully investigated,” O’Neill said. “And it’s something that we have to constantly, when we put people into Special Victims, we have to make sure we select people that are right for that job. So, that’s an ongoing process.”

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Police contact 131 people over Salisbury nerve agent fears

Police and health officials have identified 131 people who could have been exposed to the nerve agent that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition

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Powered by article titled “Police contact 131 people over Salisbury nerve agent fears” was written by Steven Morris and Caroline Bannock, for on Thursday 15th March 2018 22.57 UTC

Police and health officials have identified 131 people who could have been exposed to the nerve agent that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition, it has emerged.

It was also revealed on Thursday that 46 people have attended hospital in Salisbury expressing concern that they could be affected.

Public health officials said it was possible – though unlikely – that clothes or possessions of those who ate and drank in the same restaurant and pub as the Skripals could still be contaminated.

However, a public meeting held at City Hall in Salisbury was told that only the Skripals and DS Nick Bailey had received hospital treatment.

Novichok refers to a group of nerve agents that were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s to elude international restrictions on chemical weapons. Like other nerve agents, they are organophosphate compounds, but the chemicals used to make them, and their final structures are considered classified in the UK, the US and other countries. By making the agents in secret, from unfamiliar chemicals, the Soviet Union aimed to manufacture the substances without being impeded.

“Much less is known about the novichoks than the other nerve agents,” said Alastair Hay, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Leeds who investigated the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988. “They are not widely used at all.”

The most potent of the novichok substances are considered to be more lethal than VX, the most deadly of the familiar nerve agents, which include sarin, tabun and soman.

And while the novichok agents work in a similar way, by massively over-stimulating muscles and glands, one chemical weapons expert told the Guardian that the agents do not degrade fast in the environment and have “an additional toxicity”. “That extra toxicity is not well understood, so I understand why people were asked to wash their clothes, even if it was present only in traces,” he said. Treatment for novichok exposure would be the same as for other nerve agents, namely with atropine, diazepam and potentially drugs called oximes.

The chemical structures of novichok agents were made public in 2008 by Vil Mirzayanov, a former Russian scientist living in the US, but the structures have never been publicly confirmed. It is thought that they can be made in different forms, including a dust aerosol that would be easy to disperse.

The novichoks are known as binary agents because they become lethal only after mixing two otherwise harmless components. According to Mirzayanov, they are 10 to 100 times more toxic than the conventional nerve agents.

The fact that so little is known about them may explain why Porton Down scientists took several days to identify the compound used in the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. While laboratories around the world that are used to police chemical weapons incidents have databases of nerve agents, few outside Russia are believed to have full details of the novichok compounds and the chemicals needed to make them.

Jenny Harries, regional director at Public Health England, accepted it was difficult for people to understand why they were allowed to get close to scenes that were being examined by officers in protective hazmat suits.

But she said: “The risk to the general public is low. There are only three cases in hospital. No members of the public have been harmed by this incident. It’s an important message to hang on to.”

Health and council officials, as well as police, promised to be as open as they could to allay fears, and public health representatives will be at the Saturday market in Salisbury to speak to anyone with concerns.

The deputy chief constable of Wiltshire, Paul Mills, said: “46 people have attended [hospital] expressing concern. Each has been assessed but other than the three patients you are aware of no other persons have required hospital admission.

“We have identified 131 people who potentially could have been in contact with the nerve agent and each of these has received calls to ensure their wellbeing. None of these persons have developed symptoms that would indicate they have been exposed to the agent.”

Mills called the nature and scale of the operation “unprecedented”.

He revealed almost 500 police officers and staff were involved backed up by 200 military personnel. There were also 80 ambulance staff on hand every day from nine out of the 10 ambulance trusts nationwide and 50 firefighters. Mills said that cordons could be in place for months to come.

Council leaders accepted that the international reputation of Salisbury could be dented by the attack and the economic impact could be severe.

They announced measures including business rate relief for those affected and the launch of a hardship fund for those worst hit. Park and rides in the city will be free from Saturday until Easter Monday – though there were howls of protest when the council insisted that parking costs in the city would not be reduced.

Asked what the city’s feelings towards Russia, Salisbury’s Conservative MP John Glen said: “People are outraged that a silent assassin could attempt murder. But our message to the people of Russia s that they are always welcome in Salisbury. Our issue is with the Putin regime.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Several people injured in knife attack in Vienna



BERLIN (AP) – Austrian media report that several people have been injured in a knife attack on the streets of Vienna.

News website reports that the attack happened Wednesday evening, when a man with a knife randomly attacked pedestrians near the capital’s famous Prater park.

Citing a police spokesman, the Austria Press Agency reports that three people were seriously injured and that police are still searching for the attacker.

A motive for the attack wasn’t immediately known.


NewsThisSecond is aware of reports of a second incident and is working to verify this.


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White House on lockdown after shots fired



“Secret Service personnel are responding to reports of a person who allegedly suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound along the north fence line of @WhiteHouse,” the Secret Service tweeted.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

“We are aware of the incident,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. “The President has been briefed. I refer you to the Secret Service for any more information.”

The Secret Service tweeted an update on the situation moments later: “No other reported injuries related to the incident at @WhiteHouse.”

Secret Service spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said the incident occurred on the north fence line, the victim suffered a single gunshot wound and Secret Service personnel did not fire any shots. She would not comment on the status of the victim.

The agency also tweeted that pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the White House has been affected by the incident.

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