NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's murder rate jumped more than 10 per cent in the last year, forcing the mayor on the defensive Tuesday over any suggestion America's largest city is returning to its dark days.
He spoke hours after a pregnant 19-year-old was shot five times and her unborn baby killed in Brooklyn overnight.
Official statistics released by the police department show 193 murders in New York over the last 12 months compared to 174 in the previous year, an increase of 10.9 per cent.
Shooting incidents are up 2.7 per cent to 651 over the year ending July 26 compared to 634 for the previous 12 months.
Rapes are also up over the same period from 731 to 775.
A police spokesman told AFP that overall crime is down 5.3 per cent in the city, following last year's record low.
Asked about the increased murder rate and what he would say to some who believe the city is going downhill, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters: "Look at the facts and stop the hysteria."
"We do, did, have an uptick in murders, there's no question about it. I believe we are going to turn that around," he said.
Last year marked the lowest number of murders in New York in half a century, a fact which de Blasio stressed.
"A small number of additional murders looms large percentage wise," he admitted.
An increase in violent crime in June saw hundreds of police officers ordered off desks and back onto the streets.
De Blasio said police were doing "an extraordinary job" and that the extra deployments had already brought down shootings, adding that he expected the murder rate to soon decline too.
Despite an overall rise in shootings over the last 12 months, the number fell 11.4 per cent year-on-year over the last 28 days, according to police statistics.
Rising crime - particularly gang-related shootings - is a sensitive subject in a city where rates fell steadily under previous mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani.
There are currently 34,500 police officers in New York.
The city has a population of more than 8.4 million.