From The Mayor's Desk ...
New York is the safest big city in the nation. And we owe our safety in large measure to the heroism of firefighters like Lieutenant John Martinson, who tragically lost his life battling a blaze in Brooklyn last Thursday. As we mourn his death, let's remember to keep his family in our prayers. And while we're at it, let's also give thanks for all those who keep our city safe and healthy - often by putting their own lives on the line.
That starts with New York's Bravest, whose achievements during the past year were truly remarkable. In 2007, firefighters responded to a record number of calls - more than 490,000 in all - while also cutting average response time for the second year in a row down to four minutes, 49 seconds. That's five seconds quicker than during 2006, and 20 seconds faster than in 2005 - seconds that can make a huge difference in saving lives. Those faster response times help explain why, even as our city's population has grown to a record-high eight and a quarter million people, since 2002 we've had the fewest civilian fire deaths of any six-year period in the city's history.
During 2007, FDNY emergency medical services personnel also answered more calls than ever - a total of nearly 1.19 million. But since we've installed GPS locators in all EMS-dispatched ambulances, their response time to the most life-threatening emergencies has actually decreased by a full 20 seconds.
There's also been a dramatic increase in the safety of city jails; in fact, our Correction Department maintains the safest big-city jails in the nation. Last year was the third consecutive year in which there was not a single homicide in city jails. Assaults on staff and injuries produced by inmate-on-inmate assaults fell, too. And there was a grand total of 19 slashings and stabbings in the jails - down from more than 1,000 such jailhouse incidents as recently as 1995.
New York is a leader in public health as well as public safety. And last week, we announced that one of the most important gauges of public health - the rate of teenage smoking - has been cut in half over the past six years, to its lowest rate on record. In 2001, roughly one out of every six New York City public high school students smoked; today, that has fallen to one out of every 12. That's two-thirds lower than the national teen smoking rate. This dramatic reduction is the product of a combination of higher tobacco taxes, our pioneering Smoke-Free Workplace Act, effective advertising by the City Health Department, and tough enforcement by the Department of Consumer Affairs preventing the sale of cigarettes to minors. Over the long run, these measures will result in thousands fewer premature deaths from cancer, stroke, and heart disease.