NEW YORK CITY — Shootings and murders have dropped this year along with a steep decline in the number of stop-and-frisks that NYPD officials have long touted as a weapon to stop gun violence, New York has learned.

Gun violence in the Big Apple has declined by 8.4 percent, from 1,457 shooting incidents last year to 1,335 this year, police statistics through Dec. 16 show. Meanwhile, the number of stops declined by 30 percent during the last two quarters, from 331,135 to 239,922, according to NYPD data.

The downturn comes after two consecutive years of increasing gun violence in the city. But law enforcement sources say the shootings decline undercuts arguments that the controversial volume of stopping-and-frisking New Yorkers was a central factor in tamping down gunplay.

In fact, NYPD insiders say the decline in gun violence is largely attributable to laser-like deployment of manpower to target crime flare-ups and to the department's focus on identifying drug and gang crews prone to use weapons.

“It’s the use of cops and Impact Zones, targeted deployment and building cases against these crews that will be the reasons for the drop in shootings,” one top cop said. “To a large degree it debunks the line that stop-and-frisks prevented shootings.”

Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, stop-and-frisks rose a staggering 600 percent, from approximately 98,000 to nearly 700,000, raising alarms that the NYPD was racially profiling because the majority of frisks are in minority communities.

Under pressure from the public and the courts, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly earlier this year announced that the department would retrain cops about when and how to conduct proper stops-and-frisks.

“We are now starting to focus on quality stops, not quantity,” another police official said.

“On The Inside” previously reported that the skyrocketing number of NYPD stop and frisks had little impact on the number of people shot in New York City or on gun violence in general during Bloomberg’s administration.

This column also revealed that the number of guns taken off the streets by to he NYPD had also dropped during Bloomberg’s era and the 600 percent increase in stops-and-frisks.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said “these figures make clear that the police department has been flat out wrong in claiming that the huge increases in street stops over the last 10 years have been needed to keep down gun violence.

“In truth, stopping large numbers of innocent people is both ineffective and unlawful,” he maintained.

According to police statistics, murder is down 20 percent through Dec. 16, from 496 last year to 396 this year, which is similarly to the levels in the early 1960s.

Experts note that the decline is tied to improved medical care and triage conducted at the scene of shootings and at hospitals as much as any police initiative

Crime overall in the city is up 3.2 percent, however, which will mark the third increase in as many years, police statistics show.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • When we asked Caleb, 15, of Fort Greene, if he'd ever been stopped and frisked, he responded, "Nah, but most of my friends have. Only a matter of time, I guess."

  • Three weeks into a year's vow of silence, Matthew Swaye wrote on a piece of paper that he'd been arrested five times protesting stop-and-frisk since Oct. 21. Asked why he'd taken his vow, he wrote, "Men talking too much. :)"

  • New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm's district has the third-highest rate of stop-and-frisks in the city. People in his district had been stopped by police 18,000 times in 2011, he said. "It's outrageous and has a chilling effect," he said. Along Roosevelt Avenue, he added, cops targeted LGBT residents, disproportionately accusing them of prostitution. Dromm was joined at the protest Sunday by members of The Campaign To Stop False Arrests.

  • Ernest Johnston, of Harlem, said four years ago, a cop mistook him for somebody else and pulled a gun. The case of mistaken identity was cleared up, but it rattled him. Johnston is now an activist concerned with the stretch of Lexington Avenue between 110th and 125th Streets, which he says has the highest concentration of former prisoners re-entering society, often with criminal records that prevent them from getting jobs and housing.

  • George Mack, of South Jamaica, said Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are "trying to criminalize my children."

  • Richard said he was beat up by cops in 1996 and then charged with assaulting a police officer. His case went to trial and he was acquitted of the assault charge. <strong>Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the assault charges were dismissed.</strong>

  • Carol Porteous said she's scared that her 15-year-old son will be harassed.

  • Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial Church is one of the founders of <a href="" target="_hplink">Occupy Faith</a>, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He said that ever since 9/11, "security" in New York has trumped everything else.

  • All this woman holding a Trayvon Martin sign would say is, "No justice, no peace."

  • Marty Brod, a New York native and World War II veteran, said Bloomberg's NYPD was creating a "police state." Stop-and-frisk, he said, is "demeaning" and doesn't reduce crime.

  • Kevin (right) said he'd been arrested twice in one week on charges that were later dismissed.