Pickpocketing and Assault on the Rise in Hell's Kitchen

By Mathew Katz on May 2, 2012 9:28am 

Police say that petit larcenies are up in Midtown North because of a rash of purse snatchings and thefts from backpacks.
Police say that petit larcenies are up in Midtown North because of a rash of purse snatchings and thefts from backpacks.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Michael Hughes

HELL'S KITCHEN — Crime is up in the Midtown North precinct with an increase in felony assaults and petit larceny, police said.

Reports of law breaking went up 7.66 percent since the same time last year, with the number of felony assaults up 76.2 percent, from 21 in 2011 to 37 in 2012.

But authorities said the area's statistical crime spike is the product of a lower-than-usual level of reports in 2011.

"We’re having some pretty low numbers from last year," said Inspector Timothy Beaudette, the precinct's commanding officer, at an April 17 meeting.

"We nearly doubled our [felony assault] numbers two weeks ago only because it was so low,

"It looks like we’re spiking right now, but there’s nothing ... heavy that I need to tell you about. We’ll continue our efforts out there."

Many of the assaults have been in and around the area's emerging bar scene, including bar brawls on St. Patrick's Day and an attack on a bouncer at Perdition, a local bar.

The precinct's also seen a rise in petit larceny — an increase from 12.9 percent from last year. Beaudette attributed that to thieves snatching items from tourists' backpacks in the crowded eastern edges of the precinct.

"We see them every week or so, something's popping up," Beaudette said. "Mostly on the congested area around Fifth Avenue in the high 50s."

In response, police have begun to hand out "gear guards" — small clips that seal bags and make it more difficult to slip them open.

Despite the rise, many residents — and even tourists — said that the neighborhood feels safer than ever.

"We're kind of spoiled by how relatively crime-free we are, particularly being close to Times Square," said Larry Roberts, who's lived in the neighborhood since 1991 and heads up the precinct's Community Council.

"I'm out and about all the time and I don't notice or see many people doing illegal things. It's a really pleasant change."

Wendy Ortini, 52, said that she never once feared for the contents of her backpack while wandering Midtown on a recent trip from Pittsburgh.

A bouncer was assaulted with a slab of concrete by three jilted bar-goers at Perdition, cops said.
A bouncer was assaulted with a slab of concrete by three jilted bar-goers at Perdition, cops said.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

"I was here 20, 25 years ago — it's a dream compared to them," she said. "I'm sure there's crime happening, but this is New York, of course there's going to be."

Overall, crime is down just over 80 percent from the same time in 1993. Roberts pointed out that the numbers are so small across the board that any rise from 2011 would mean a large percentage jump.

"We still have the little bit of seediness to our area," he said.

"I don’t think we ever want to lose that, but times are ... changing."

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