safest for all crime

chelsea & hell's kitchen

Photo: Tiphanie Colon-Lamontanaro

10th precinct / population 50,180

Hell's Kitchen didn't get its name by accident. This 24-block sliver of mid-Manhattan west of Eight Avenue and extending north from 34th Street was once the stomping ground of the Westies, a violent Irish-American gang. Today, newcomers are almost as likely to refer to the area as Clinton, reflecting the desires of developers to make it the next gentrification success story in the city.

Chelsea, which runs south to 14th Street and west of Sixth Avenue, is now as famous for its art galleries and velvet-rope nightclubs as it is for being a nexus for LGBT shops and services. Drugs are still around, though less conspicously than in the 1970s, when a strung-out Sid Vicious stabbed fellow-junkie Nancy Spungen in the iconic Hotel Chelsea, or in the 1980s, when tenement crack houses could be found a few blocks away from the area's historic townhouses.

Crime in the area, covered by the 10th Precinct, has dropped 64 percent from 1993 to 2010, led by car thefts plunging 92 percent, to 42, and burglaries falling 85 percent, to 99. But like other popular downtown Manhattan neighborhoods, the per capita crime rate ranks the area as the 61st safest in the city, with 209 crimes per 10,000 residents, despite a 21 percent drop in major crime from 2008 to 2010.

It's the busy sidewalks and small businesses that make these neighborhoods prime targets for chain snatchers, bank robbers and muggers, and that help explain their 65th-place ranking for property crime. Still, the trends show property crime is receding.

Even though grand larcenies were up 46 percent from 2001 to 2010, that crime rate dropped during the two years to 2010 by 18 percent, to 651. Burglaries remained steady from 2009 to 2010, inching up from 98 to 99, but were down 24 percent compared to 2008 figures.

The neighborhoods' rank improves to 43rd when the focus is violent crimes. Murders were down 75 percent in the 17 years from 1993, dropping from eight to two, though that's one more than in 2009. Robberies, too, continued to fall, down 13 percent in 2010, to 114. Rapes, however, have been on the rise since 2001, up 67 percent in 2010, from six to 10. Yet misdemeanor sex crimes fell 38 percent during the year. Shootings rose 200 percent in 2010, from one to three, and felony assaults ticked up 8 percent, to 131.