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It's late Saturday night, sometime after 3 a.m.

A black man with a history of drug crimes, somewhere between 25 and 40 years old, is hanging on the streets with a gun-toting pal.

That man is the New Yorker most likely to be murdered in 2010.

A Daily News review of the latest NYPD crime statistics shows drugs are a factor in at least half of city homicides - and two out of three victims are black.

Stats through Tuesday reveal 49% of all murder victims are involved with drug use and/or drug sales. The figure is 53% for murder suspects.

The numbers say 67% of murder victims are black, with 25% Hispanic and just 4% white.

In 12% of city slayings, drugs are the exclusive motive. Police say that figure is much higher when other factors such as previous disputes and criminal histories of victims and suspects are included.

The days, times and places where death is most imminent for New Yorkers:

The deadliest day of the week: Saturday (89 murders).
The safest: Tuesday (58 murders).
The deadliest time of day: 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. (41 murders).
The deadliest weapon: Guns, used in 62% of all killings.
The deadliest precinct: Brooklyn's 75th, with 30 murders.

Much of the data mirrors past years, when black men were most often targeted in fatal shootings.

The city's homicide total stands at 476 through Tuesday, compared with 470 for all of 2009. Police suggest the bump indicates the NYPD is also a victim - of its own success after last year's record low.

Tony Fields, whose barbershop sits in the city's most lethal precinct, never noticed much change around his East New York business. "It's not that complicated," said Fields, 44. "Lots of guns and drugs equals a high murder rate. Get rid of the drugs. Get rid of the guns. Get rid of the murders."

Retired Correction Officer Tony Armstrong, 47, said the neighborhood's reputation for mayhem was nothing new.

"I'm not surprised that we have the highest murder rate," he said. "It's East New York."

The stats also showed 65% of killings occur outdoors; only 10% of murder suspects were women, and 77% of victims knew their killers.

The last figure underscores what police have maintained for years: There's little chance of a law-abiding New Yorker dying at the hands of a stranger.

A Bronx double homicide last month typified the city's drug killings. Saleem Sterling, who had been arrested three times for possession, was shot to death with a second man outside a building in the Soundview Houses.

Sterling, 30, had drugs stashed inside a body cavity, police said.

"He was a nickel-and-dime peddler," said local resident Raymond Lee Wilson, 56. "This is my 'hood. It was his 'hood, too. People feel trapped here."

His mother remained perplexed yesterday about her son's brutal demise. "He had no fear in these projects," said Marsha Sterling, 56, whose son was a part-time deejay and dad of a 7-year-old boy. "Who would shoot my son in the head?"

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department was still focused on derailing the deadly drug trade.

"We still do a lot of buy-and-bust operations," Browne said. "We also do undercover work to infiltrate drug trafficking organizations."

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the homicide numbers were unsurprising and unacceptable.

"The most racially biased thing we could do would be to act like it's normal - that we are helpless to change things," Sharpton said. "We are not. But we need to change the culture. It breaks my heart when I see kids wearing Scarface T-shirts instead of Malcolm X T-shirts. That's making the culture of dealing drugs acceptable."With Matthew Lysiak

rparascandola@nydailynews.com



Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/12/02/2010-12-02

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