THE BRONX - A small NYPD graduation class could translate to fewer cops patrolling Bronx streets in "Operation Impact," according to the police commissioner.

A graduation ceremony was held Wednesday at Madison Square Garden for the 1,097 rookies. Commissioner Raymond Kelly admitted the class was far smaller than what the department wanted.

He blames recruiting problems on the low starting salary of $25,000. Kelly said the next class, which will be hired in July, will be even smaller with just 800 recruits.

Operation Impact, a program that identifies high-crime areas and floods them with rookie cops, could be affected by the low recruiting. Kelly said two-thirds of the new graduates will go toward the program.

Between 2003 and 2006, the program is credited with a 24 percent drop in murders, 23 percent decrease in assaults and 21 percent drop in robberies.

The city's top cop said the program is expected to continue for at least another six months under the current recruiting conditions.

AP wire reports contributed to this story.