Property Crime Plagues Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, Report Says

By Mathew Katz on September 7, 2011 8:41pm 

Officers from the NYPD's 10th Precinct, which patrols Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, at an event in August 2011.
Officers from the NYPD's 10th Precinct, which patrols Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, at an event in August 2011.
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DNAinfo/David Torres

CHELSEA — Gentrification, high rents, new condos and restaurants haven't stopped Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen from being among the least safe areas in the city, especially for property crimes, a new report said.

The neighborhoods ranked 61st out of 69 neighborhoods for per capita crime in DNAinfo's "Crime & Safety Report," which analyzed NYPD crime data and population information from the US Census.

While that ranking improves when it comes to violent crime, the area has a huge problem with theft. Grand larceny far outweighed all other crimes in the neighborhood. In 2010, it made up 62 percent of all crime. Grand larcenies in the area were up overall 46 percent from 2001 to 2010.

Still, the data shows that crime trends in the 10th Precinct, which covers the area, are on the way down. Overall crime in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen dropped 64 percent between 1993 and 2010. Even grand larceny has dropped by 18 percent in the two years leading up to 2010.

Some in the neighborhood attributed that to the area's increasing gentrification and development, especially in the previously industrial western areas of the precinct.

"It’s generally safer than in the past because we have more eyes on the street," said Brett Firfer, a member of Community Board 4 and Chelsea resident since 2000. "When there’s more development, there’s more eyes on the street."

Firfer said he now sees significantly more people walking to and from work, home and parks on Chelsea's west side.

Still, he said the large amount of grand larcenies likely happen to the thousands of commuters and tourists who come into the area every day.

"If it's anybody, it's going to be people who don't live in the neighborhood," said Sherri Hodes, who has lived in Hell's Kitchen since 1975. "I think tourists are a main target, because they're so overwhelmed by the city."

That includes scams and purse-snatchings that can cost tourists thousands of dollars.

Nonetheless, Hodes, 62, said crime had significantly improved since she first moved to the area. Her apartment was robbed twice in the 1970s and 1980s, she said, but now it's a different story.

"Those kinds of things were normal back then," she said. "But I have not felt unsafe in this neighborhood for at least 20 years."

George Forbes, 45, who has lived in Chelsea since 2003, also said he felt safe in the area, but has seen some incidents occur near some of the small bars and clubs that have popped up in the neighborhood.

"Late at night, I see large groups of young women in particular, swaying in high heels," said Forbes, who is also on the board of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. "I guess they would be easy pickings."

The area's increasing affluence means that residents own more expensive things — all the more ripe for the high-priced thefts that add up in the neighborhood's high grand larceny rates per capita. The neighborhood's galleries have even become targets, with at least one art heist in the area recently.

Despite those crime rates, many residents are still unconvinced that the area is dangerous.

"I can now walk around with my dog at night and feel perfectly safe," Hodes said. "I may be a fool, but nothing's ever happened to me."

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