safest for all crime
33rd/34th precinct / population 190,020
Washington Heights was once known as the city's murder capital, ruled by drug gangs and scarred by police corruption. The crime got so bad that in 1994 the police department split the patrol area in two: the 33rd Precinct south of 179th Street, and the 34th Precinct to the north, which also includes Inwood.
Now, Washington Heights is one of the city's safest neighborhoods, and it ranks a respectable 24th out of 69 for per capita crime in DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety Report, with a rate of 110 major crimes per 10,000 residents. That also makes it the fourth-safest neighborhood in Manhattan, behind only the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side and neighboring Inwood.
For property crimes alone it moves up to 14th. For burglaries, the neighborhood ranks seventh safest. Some New Yorkers might find those facts surprising, but since the precinct split, there's been a steep drop in murders and shootings, in large part attributable to a police focus on clearing troubled blocks of drug gangs. The removal of corrupt police officers helped, too.
The turnaround led to a recent wave of gentrification, and many Dominican residents who have long made up the majority of the neighborhood population are now moving to outer-boroughs, according to the 2010 census.
But the neighborhood retains its diversity, and more than half of its residents are foreign-born, most of them coming from Latin America.
Still, despite all the progress, the area continues to struggle. The precincts' combined 2010 rate for murders, rapes, assaults and robberies ranks Washington Heights 42nd for violent crime. In the 34th Precinct, total crime was down by 83 percent from 1993 to 2010, but violent crimes jumped from 2008 to 2010, prompting an outcry from public officials. In the 33rd Precinct, total crime was up 21 percent in the 17 years to 2010, the only place in the city to record an increase for that period. From 2009 to 2010, overall crime rates were stable: down by 3 percent in the 34th, up by 1 percent in the 33rd.
Rise in rapes from 2009 to 2010
Drop in burglaries from 2009 to 2010
Photo: 33rd Detective Squad/ HomicideSquad.com
Jose "Kiko" Garcia, a convicted drug dealer, was spotted by the police on E. 163rd Street near St. Nicholas Avenue on July 3, 1992. An officer tried to stop and question him, suspicious that he was carrying a gun. The officer followed Garcia (pictured, thumb up, furthest right) into a building, 505 W. 162nd St. Inside the lobby, the two struggled, and the officer fired a single shot at close range, killing Garcia. A rumor quickly spread that Garcia had been beaten with a police radio and executed while he begged for his life and asked for his mother. The rumor sparked six days of riots in which police cars were attacked with firebombs and raked with sniper fire, forcing the police to travel in convoys when they patrolled the neighborhood. Days later, a front-page photograph of Garcia's mother being comforted by then-Mayor David Dinkins appeared in the "Daily News" under the headline "I Want the Truth." This further fueled the outrage. Dinkins paid for Garcia's funeral and for the body to be flown to his native Dominican Republic. The officer involved in Garcia's shooting was later cleared by a grand jury.
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