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High-Priced Neighborhoods Less Safe for Property Crime, Report Says

By Amy Zimmer | September 27, 2011 6:41am
DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety report revealed some unexpected findings.
DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety report revealed some unexpected findings.
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MANHATTAN — Affluent areas of Manhattan can make valuable targets for property crimes, new crime and safety data reveal.

While several of Manhattan’s highest priced neighborhoods — the Upper East Side, Midtown East (which includes Sutton Place and Turtle Bay) and Downtown (which includes TriBeCa and SoHo) — ranked within the top five safest Manhattan neighborhoods in terms of violent crimes, they didn’t fare as well in terms of safety for property crimes, according to a new report from DNAinfo.

Meanwhile, some neighborhoods that tend to have lower real estate values and were among the five least safe neighborhoods for violent crimes — West Harlem (which includes Hamilton Heights and Sugar Hill) and East Harlem — were among the top five safest for property crimes, according to DNAinfo’s Crime & Safety Report

Property crimes are defined as those that don’t involve the victim directly — only their property —and include the major crime categories of grand larceny, auto theft and burglary. The report combined NYPD crimes statistics for 2010 with current U.S. census data to rank 69 neighborhoods in New York City for per capita crime.

In the report, the least safe Manhattan neighborhoods for property crime are Midtown, Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District, Flatiron, Downtown, and Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. The safest are West Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, East Harlem and the Upper West Side.

The Upper East Side — which ranked as Manhattan safest neighborhood overall in DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety Report — placed eighth safest in Manhattan when ranked for property crime, and 40th safest citywide for property crime.

On the Upper East Side the median sales price for condos in 2009 was $1.07 million, the median monthly rent reached $1,735, and median household income was $98,817, according to NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

On the other hand, in West Harlem — which DNAinfo ranked as Manhattan’s safest neighborhood for property crimes — the median sales price for apartments in buildings with more than five units was $89,252, the median monthly rent was $965, and median household income was $38,614, according to the center.

“When it comes to real estate, it’s location, location, location, and the 19th Precinct [which covers the Upper East Side] is a great location, but it is an awfully big precinct as well, going from 59th Street to 96th Street,” said Robert McCrie, a professor of urban crime in the Department of Protection Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“And although it’s a wealthy precinct, there are rich and poor as well, though far more rich.”

McCrie said there are three factors important to understanding property crime.

“First, there has to be a motivated offender; second, a suitable target; third there has to be the absence of suitable guardianship,” he said.

There are always motivated offenders, and in an area such as the Upper East Side there are plenty “attractive goals,” McCrie said. Still, he was still surprised at the area’s ranking, considering it is thought to have good security.

“Part of it is that the Upper East Side is so large and diverse, it fits the bill for many different demographics,” said Jonathan Miller, an expert real estate appraiser from Miller Samuel Inc., noting that some parts of Park and Fifth Avenues have the city’s highest-end apartments, while toward the east there are much older walk-ups.

“You can have a $20 million apartment in a building next to a co-op with a $500,00 studio. You can have two buildings side by side and the values are significantly different,” he added. “That’s one of the biggest challenges of assessing property. It’s not just property values changing block by block, but building by building within the same block.”

The Upper East Side had different levels of safety within the property crime categories. It actually ranks No. 2 safest in Manhattan for burglary and No. 3 for auto theft, but is No. 8 for grand larceny, which only includes thefts of items costing more than $1,000. When all 69 neighborhoods across the five boroughs are included, the Upper East Side drops to 57th safest for grand larceny.

Grand larcenies make up nearly 75 percent of all crimes on the Upper East Side — which includes major shopping strips along Madison, Lexington and Third avenues — according to the 19th Precinct’s Deputy Inspector Matthew Whelan.

In terms of sheer numbers of incidents, the Upper East Side — which has 208,259 residents and also includes data from Central Park — saw 236 burglaries, 1,354 grand larcenies and 89 auto thefts in 2010, according to the DNAinfo report. West Harlem, which has 60,685 residents, saw 101 burglaries, 144 grand larcenies and 49 auto thefts.

The data on property crime shows perhaps “that it is less of a factor or not much of a factor in determining where you’re going to live,” Miller said.

“It would seem like property value is more correlated to violent crime,” he said. “The property crimes are more heavily weighted in more affluent areas with higher incomes. … It’s sort of embedded into the value in more affluent areas that there’s more property crime.” 

Midtown ranked as Manhattan’s least safe area in terms of property crime, followed by Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District — where the Furman Center found that median condo sales were $1.94 million, median monthly rents were $1,999, and median household income was $101,794.

DNAinfo’s report based its rankings on the measurable number of residents in each neighborhood, taken from the 2010 U.S. census, which does not include the hundreds of thousands of workers and tourists who are in Midtown each day, and the thousands who flock to the shops or the restaurants and clubs in Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District every night.

The Midtown and Greenwich Village neighborhoods ranked in the bottom two positions for total crime citywide in the Crime & Safety Report.