The New York Police Department reported a 79 percent decline in stop-and-frisk activity through the third quarter of this year, as serious crime declines in the city, and the NYPD continued to pull back on the strategy, figures show.

Through Sept. 30, police performed 38,456 stops, compared to 179,065 through the same period of 2013. In a talk earlier this week at New York University School of Law, Police Commissioner William Bratton said he expected the department to have a total of less than 50,000 stops for the entire year -- far from the nearly 700,000 recorded in 2011, the highest total on record.

"Five or six years ago we had more crime and more stops, and this year we have less crime and fewer stops," Bratton noted.

Bratton said serious crime in the city is down 4.4 percent as stops drop.

A full analysis of stops is to be made available in coming weeks, but an early look showed about 80 percent of the people stopped were black or Hispanic. The average in previous quarters was 83 percent, a law enforcement official said.

One of the criticisms of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk activity in the past was that it affected mostly minorities. Data shows that the percentage of minority stops hasn't changed very much even with sharply reduced activity by cops.

In his remarks this week, Bratton criticized former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration for relying too much on stop-and-frisk as "medicine" to push crime down.

"The amount of medicine was totally out of proportion to the illness," Bratton told an audience of law professors, students and journalists, adding that there were "700,000 stop-question-and-frisks in this city even as crime was going down year after year".

Bratton said he didn't agree with the argument that the crime was going down because of the stop-and-frisk police tactic. Former commissioner Ray Kelly had said that stop-and-frisk was only one police strategy the department used to battle crime.

Around 2012, as criticism of the program mounted from minority communities, the NYPD started to reduce the number of stops as Kelly ordered precinct executive officers to personally audit the stop activity to assure better quality. By 2013, total stops dropped to 191,588. Nonetheless, a federal monitor was still imposed last year to oversee the activity.