Warning: What follows just might be a bit of good news.

The city's homicide rate has fallen 30 percent from the grim total it had registered by this point in 2007, when the constant deluge of murders led to the loathsome local nickname "Killadelphia."

According to police statistics, 162 homicides have been recorded so far this year, compared with 183 a year ago, and 234 in 2007.

The city had 333 homicides all of last year, a 15 percent drop from the 392 slayings in '07.

The homicide rate - which soared at a time earlier this decade when homicides in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were reaching record lows - is now among other signs of progress in the city's crime-fighting efforts.

The number of shootings has dropped 30 percent, to 781 thus far, police said.

Five hundred rapes have been reported so far for the year, a 13 percent drop from a year ago, while the number of gunpoint robberies and aggravated assaults involving guns have dropped 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Overall, violent crime in the city has decreased by 5 percent.

All of this is good news to Mayor Nutter, who was elected in 2007 by voters who believed that crime and public safety were the most important issues of the day.

Immediately after taking office, Nutter pledged to reduce homicides by 30 percent to 50 percent within five years. He's pleased, but hasn't popped any champagne bottles yet.

"Things are moving in the right direction, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. We cannot slow down," Nutter said last night.

The drop in violent crime, he said, can be traced to a number of factors, including an increase in the number of cops working neighborhood beats; Operation Pressure Point, the intensive, round-up-all-the-bad-guys joint law-enforcement effort every weekend; and citizen involvement.

But Nutter said he believes that the city needs to "accelerate" its crime-fighting efforts to make it one of the nation's safest big cities - and rightly so.

With eight million residents, New York City's rate has fallen 17 percent so far this year to 235 victims; 523 people were slain in New York last year and 496 in '07.

Homicides are down 22 percent in Los Angeles, population 4 million, to 162. L.A. recorded 381 homicides last year, and 396 in '07.

To get the local murder tally to drop even lower, Nutter said, the city needs to focus on creating jobs, educating students and putting ex-cons to work. "There are still too many people being killed. We can do better." *