PHILADELPHIA ended the year with 248 murders, just one higher than in 2013, when the city saw a historic low of 247, according to crime statistics touted yesterday by Mayor Nutter.

Nutter noted that the 2014 murder total represented a nearly 37 percent drop from 2007, the year before he took office, when 391 were slain.

The mayor credited the decrease in murders - and a decline in shootings and violent crime overall - to the leadership of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the diligence of his officers and a collaboration between police and community activists to fight crime.

"The citizens need police. The police need the citizens," Nutter said during an afternoon news conference at City Hall.

Nutter highlighted the importance of good police-community relations amid nationwide tensions sparked by the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., at the hands of cops and further strained by the horrific, execution-style shooting deaths of two NYPD officers as they sat in their squad car in Brooklyn on Dec. 20.

During the past seven years, seven Philadelphia officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, Nutter said.

In 2014, Philadelphia police fatally shot four people, three of whom were armed with weapons, compared with 12 police-involved fatalities in 2013, Nutter said, adding that all police shootings, fatal or not, are reviewed.

"If you shoot at a Philadelphia police officer . . . they are going to shoot back. That's their job. Their first duty is to protect themselves and the citizens of the city. So my recommendation is, don't shoot at the police. Don't fight with the police," Nutter said. "At the same time, we need to make sure that officers do not engage, in the course of their policing, in a way that is disrespectful."

Residents, Nutter said, want "policing that is not oppressive, that's not abusive, that's not prejudice."

He concluded, "There has to be a balance or a better understanding, a higher level of understanding, between community members who have, in many instances, serious, legitimate concerns and gripes, issues and complaints and feelings about how they might be treated by the police and at the same time, while the officers are out here doing their job, they want to be able to go home to their families.

"They're risking their lives and they want to have some level of decency and respect and appreciation for the hard work that they are doing out on the streets every day."

On Twitter: @wendyruderman