safest for all crime
28th/32nd precincts / population 115,723
At one time it was home of the Harlem Renaissance, then later a symbol of urban decay and crime, but in the past decade, Central Harlem has made an impressive comeback. Previously abandoned streets have sprung back to life with shops, restaurants and condominium towers, and crime has dropped by huge margins.
The turnaround dates to the 1990s, when police began a sustained focus on stabilizing the neighborhood. Since then, new residents from other parts of the city have moved in, and Central Harlem boasted one of the largest population increases among New York neighborhoods in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.
In the two precincts that cover Central Harlem, the 28th and the 32nd, the most serious categories of crime have declined by a total of 71 percent in the 17 years to 2010. Murders dropped by 85 percent; shootings were down by 75 percent. But lately there have been signs that the historic reductions may have bottomed out, with the crime rate dropping by only about half a percent in 2010. Overall, Central Harlem ranks as 54th safest for per capita crime in DNAinfo.com's survey of 69 neighborhoods, landing in the middle for Manhattan neighborhoods.
Focus on property crime, and Central Harlem jumps up to 36th place. Burglaries declined by 13 percent in the combined precincts from 2009 to 2010, to 232. Car theft was down 23 percent, to 73 incidents, earning the neighborhood an 11th safest ranking for that crime. Grand larcenies ticked up just over 2 percent, to 594.
Violent crime, however, remains a concern. Even though murders dropped in 2010 from 11 to eight in the 32nd Precinct, which covers the northern part of the neighborhood, they jumped from two to six in the 28th Precinct.
Also in the 28th, rapes increased in 2010 from nine to 13; robberies rose by 6 percent, to 254; while shootings were up by 33 percent, to 20. Authorities and community leaders blame block-based youth street gangs. In the 32nd, rape soared in 2010 by 29 percent, to 31; and robberies jumped 10 percent, to 292. Grand larcenies and shootings rose by 5 and 3 percent, respectively.
Rise in rapes from 2009 to 2010
Drop in major crimes from 1993 to 2010
Photo: Getty/NY Daily News Archive
Simmering racial tensions in Harlem exploded in the winter of 1995, when a Jewish shopkeeper's plans to expand his clothing shop, called Freddy's, led to a firebombing and eight deaths. The expansion proposed by shopkeeper Freddy Harari involved the displacement of an African American-owned store, Record Shack, which had been operating on 125th Street for more than 20 years. There were weeks of protests, which were co-sponsored by Rev. Al Sharpton. On December 8, Roland James Smith Jr., 51, stormed into Freddy's and took more than a dozen hostages. Smith shot four people, then poured paint thinner on the floor and lit the shop on fire before shooting himself in the chest. Seven hostages were killed, though four men wounded by the gunfire managed to escape the deadly blaze. Police believe that Smith had taken part in the protests outside the shop the night before the attack. The fire leveled Freddy's as well as several neighboring businesses, including Record Shack.
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