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Midtown Has Highest Per Capita Crime Rate in New York

By Jill Colvin | September 8, 2011 8:09am
Midtown Manhattan has New York's highest crime rate per capita, according to a new analysis from DNAinfo.
Midtown Manhattan has New York's highest crime rate per capita, according to a new analysis from DNAinfo.
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MIDTOWN — Midtown Manhattan has the highest crime rate per capita of any neighborhood in the city, according to a new analysis of crime data by DNAinfo.

The data, which breaks down crime statistics by population count, finds that Midtown, which straddles the Midtown North and Midtown South precincts, places dead-last when it comes to overall crime safety — beating out neighborhoods that are typically considered dangerous like East New York, Brooklyn and the South Bronx.

While the vast majority of crimes committed in Midtown are property crimes, and most of those grand larcenies like purse snatchings and credit card thefts, the neighborhood nonetheless ranks 62nd out of 69 when it comes to violent crimes, including rapes and felony assaults.

“That’s kind of amazing, actually,” said John Mudd, president of the Midtown South Precinct Community Council and a resident for nearly 30 years, who said that complaints about crime in the neighborhood are relatively rare.

“We don’t get a lot of crime. We really don’t,” he said, noting that most residents are concerned about quality-of-life issues like homelessness, aggressive cyclists and excessive noise.

Much of the reason for the disconnect is that Midtown’s residential population is so small. While hundreds of thousands of people pass through the neighborhood each day, to go to work, sightsee, eat and drink, just 74,717 people live here, according to the latest census count.

That, combined with a large number of tourists — inevitably a target — push the neighborhood’s per capita crime rate to 723 major crimes per 10,000 residents.

“Clearly the numbers are distorted by the fact that midtown has very few residents,” said Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership and the Bryant Park Corporation, who estimates that Midtown’s daytime population swells to 1.6 million to 1.7 million people every weekday.

“Per capita is crazy if it uses residents. It needs to use people there,” he said, arguing that when crime does happen, it’s usually limited to things like laptop thefts from buildings and aggressive panhandling.

“Obviously it’s not a dangerous neighborhood. There’s virtually no violent crime left in Midtown Manhattan,” he said, citing decades of decline.

Indeed, crime plunged a whopping 80 percent between 1993 and 2010, with serious crime down again last year by 7 percent.

Burglaries also fell by 19 percent, grand larcenies by 7 percent, and there was less than one robbery, on average, per day, continuing the decline. But the numbers also show some troubling increases in serious crimes.

Rapes spiked a disturbing 146 percent last year, from 13 attacks in 2009 to 32 in 2010, and felony assaults jumped by 14 percent, from 274 to 313. Ticketed criminal offenses also rose by nearly 30 percent, from 12,300 to nearly 16,000.

Officials credit the increases partially to the fact that Midtown has become a more popular destination, with new clubs, restaurants and bars. Reports of rape have also increased city-wide, police say, because more women are choosing to come forward.

Some residents blamed the economy, suggesting that more people may be been turning to alcohol in tough times or that struggling bar and restaurant owners may be opening their doors to more violence-prone clientele that wouldn't be welcome if times weren’t as tough.

But residents who’ve lived in the neighborhood for decades said that it’s difficult to complain when things have improved so much.

“I’ve seen it continually get better,” said Scott Bowen, an accountant who’s lived on West 35th Street for nearly 20 years and said he never feels nervous in his neighborhood.

Bowen, 48, said that his apartment was robbed twice in four years — back when he lived on the Upper East Side — but said he hasn’t had a single issue since he moved downtown, where there are four hotels on his block alone that ensure constant foot traffic.

But Bowen said the neighborhood’s transient nature does create challenges that some cite as a growing concern.

“It’s a huge influx of people that come into this neighborhood,” he said, pointing to Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus terminal as hubs for potential criminals who may want to strike and then quickly get away.

“Am I concerned about it? Of course… [But] I don’t feel threatened,” he said.

Mudd, of the Midtown South Community Council, agreed the hubs have proven especially difficult for police to manage.

He said rough crowds, including many homeless people, frequently gather outside at night and have become an increasingly serious problem in recent months that he worries could grow worse.

“I feel safe because I’ve seen it at its worst… But, it seems lately that it’s a little darker,” he said.