NEW YORK - NEW York's murder rate has increased by more than 15 per cent over the last year, according to the latest figures released on Tuesday by the NYPD.

The New York Police Department said 425 murders had been committed across the city, compared to 367 by this stage in 2009 - a rise of 15.8 per cent year-on-year. The number of rapes also rose, from 943 in 2009 to 1,075 this year.

The figures were even more grim in certain parts of the city, like in East Harlem's 25th precinct. The murder rate there rose a staggering 400 per cent, with 10 slayings compared with just two last year.

Authorities, however, underlined that New York is still one of the safest cities in the United States and has improved dramatically since two decades ago when the annual murder rate hovered around 2,000.

A rampage by gun-slinging youths through New York's Times Square in April underscored the surge in murders and shootings early in the year that had some New Yorkers fearing a return to the city's dark past.

The mayhem - which Mayor Michael Bloomberg described using the dreaded 1980s-era term 'wilding' - highlighted growing fears that crime was returning.

New York murder rate soars