You probably know how dramatically crime has fallen over the last five years in New York City. Our 47 percent overall reduction in crime has led America, accounting for nearly a third of the overall crime decline nationwide. And even if you didn't know the statistics, you probably sense the difference on your block or on the way to work. All across the city - especially in neighborhoods that used to be considered the most dangerous - innocent people are less likely to be victimized.
Our crime reductions have gotten a lot of attention - and justifiably, I think. But over the last five years, there's another important way in which we have protected New Yorkers and kept them from being victimized - an area which hasn't received as much attention -- we've transformed the delivery of emergency medical services in New York City.
On Wednesday, I attended the annual Medal Day of the Emergency Medical Service bureau of the Fire Department, and I was reminded once again of the tremendous sacrifices EMS workers make every day to save people's lives. Like firefighters and police officers, they run toward danger, not away from it, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
And we should be especially thankful now, because EMS is doing a better job than ever before. In March 1996, we merged EMS and the Fire Department in order to improve the City's response time to medical emergencies. Now EMS is using its resources more efficiently, responding more quickly, and reaching out into our neighborhoods - closer to people in need.
At the same time, we have enlarged the overall size of our emergency response network by instituting an innovative program in which firefighters now also act as Certified First Responders to medical emergencies. Thanks to the management of the Fire Department, EMS, and the hard work of all the people on the front lines, this new coordinated response system is working even better than we expected.
Between July and October 1995, Emergency Medical Service response time to life-threatening medical emergencies averaged 8 minutes and 45 seconds. By last year, over the same period, that time had dropped to just over 7 minutes. And in the first two months of this year, with the Fire Department's Emergency Medical command registering its busiest January and February on record, response times have been kept the lowest in the history of EMS. That's a major accomplishment.
Of course, there's no such thing as responding too quickly to a medical emergency - so we still have work to do. But we should be very proud of how far we've come. It's clear that when we are in deepest need of help for ourselves or our loved ones, we can now depend on getting rapid and professional medical attention.