- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

New York officials from Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on down boast they are having another great year in reducing the city's murder rate achieved by omitting the 2,545 homicide victims now certified at the World Trade Center.
"This attack is unparalleled in American history and to include [them] would completely skew the number," city Criminal Justice Coordinator Steve Fishner explained Wednesday in an interview about why the city wouldn't be using a murder rate inflated by the deaths in the September 11 attacks.
"They are not homicides by any conventional definition of the word. The attack on New York City was a terror attack from abroad and an act of war directed at the United States of America," said the former prosecutor, also the mayor's top crime adviser.
He said officials help the city's image and policing techniques by tracking crimes with their innovative CompStat statistical program to predict trends and assign police resources in areas of greatest need.
"It is a measure of the relative safety and relative criminal activity in the city of New York," Mr. Fishner said. "We do not intend to add the World Trade Center figure into CompStat."
Another official familiar with Mr. Giuliani's position on the issue asked not to be identified, but said including the September 11 death toll in the statistics "would so pervert the numbers as to make them useless."
Yet New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Hirsch disputes the decision not to categorize the deaths caused by the September 11 attacks as homicides.
So far, he has issued 475 death certificates in the homicide category for persons he identified at the World Trade Center site, while Surrogate's Court issued another 2,070 presumptive death certificates for other victims listing homicide as the cause of death.
"It still is homicide," said Dr. Hirsch's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, who cited the working definition when "one person or persons' actions causes the death of another person or persons."
"These deaths obviously are caused by the actions of one person or several persons," she said Wednesday, when asked if the World Trade Center deaths should be included for the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).
Except for four hijackers in Pennsylvania whose deaths were declared suicides, all death certificates so far in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania categorize the September 11 deaths as homicides. They add up to the largest mass murder in U.S. history.
"If we were to identify the hijackers, we also would classify their deaths as suicide," Dr. Hirsch said.
Virginia and Pennsylvania officials both said their combined 233 deaths from September 11 would be included in statistical reports to the FBI.
"We're going to report the 189 deaths at the Pentagon as homicides," said Deborah Little-Bowser, state registrar of Vital Records, which issued green-bordered death certificates based on findings by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Virginia reserves red-bordered death certificates for homicides, and other unnatural deaths are determined directly by state medical examiners.
Somerset County, Pa., coroner Wallace Miller said all 40 passengers and crew killed in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 were recorded on "presumptive death certificates" as homicides, and the four hijackers were listed as suicides. Those 40 homicides were the only ones during 2001 in a county that had just two other homicides in the previous four years.
"I think they're homicides. I've confirmed them as that," Mr. Miller said.
Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Craig Bowman said those numbers would be filed but awaited assurances that FBI agents also wouldn't record the cases separately.
"We don't want to underreport them, but I don't want them to get reported twice," Cpl. Bowman said. "The deaths are nothing to be embarrassed about."
The UCR definition of murder "the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another" includes all degrees of murder and the most serious degrees of manslaughter, excluding justifiable homicides and deaths resulting from negligence, suicide or accident.
"It's an issue that's come up and I don't think any conclusions have been reached on how the deaths will be categorized," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.
The FBI's massive UCR for 1995 included Oklahoma City's 168 dead at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building with a footnote explaining Oklahoma City's unusual "increase in murders" and high number of deaths caused by explosives.
That was how New York filed its report in 1990 when an arsonist set a fire that killed 87 persons at Happyland Social Club on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. The city used an explanatory footnote to explain the surge in deaths.
But now New York has grown possessive about its sharply decreasing homicide statistics that, ironically, caused the government to cut a safe-cities block grant "because New York has become a safer and saner place," Mr. Fishner said.
"I think the better way to do it is to not count the number and have the footnote mention the event for historical purposes," Mr. Fishner said.
New York City Police Department statistics for 2001 through Nov. 18 list 560 murders, compared with 613 by the same date last year.
"Murders decreased 69 percent between 1993 and Sept. 30, 2001," the police Web site said Wednesday in captions for a chart documenting the decline. "New York City has been the safest large city in America since 1995, according to FBI Index statistics."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide