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Property Crime Prevalent in East Side Neighborhoods

By Mary Johnson | September 8, 2011 7:50am
Police in the 13th and 17th precincts have kept violent crimes low, but property crimes are relatively high.
Police in the 13th and 17th precincts have kept violent crimes low, but property crimes are relatively high.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

MANHATTAN — The neighborhoods on the east side of Manhattan from East 59th Street to East 14th Street rank among the least safe in the city for overall crime. But, according to data compiled by DNAinfo, violent crimes are low.

In fact, in an area that encompasses six distinct neighborhoods and almost 350,000 residents, there were only six murders in 2010.

Instead, the main issue impacting those areas is a high rate of property crime, a category that includes auto theft, grand larceny (or theft of property valued at more than $1,000) and burglaries.

Midtown East, Turtle Bay and Kips Bay ranked fifth safest for violent crime, based on low rates of robberies, murders, rapes and felony assaults. Rapes dropped 27 percent from 2009 to 2010, and there were no murders committed in either year.

But in the same area, 872 property crimes occurred last year, including 745 grand larcenies, which dropped the area to an overall safety ranking of 58 out of 69 neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

Although a prevalence of property crime remains an issue in the area, such offenses have declined dramatically over the years, falling 79 percent between 2001 and 2010.

Rob Byrnes, president of the East Midtown Partnership, attributes the area’s overall safety to the prevalence of big companies that fill the streets with people every day.

“One of the advantages of having a lot of businesses around is having a lot of eyes at all hours,” said Byrnes, who has been with the partnership for almost 10 years.

Byrnes said his organization employs a security force that keeps about six or seven officers patrolling the area during business hours. Although that security team has no real authority, Byrnes said it can act as a deterrent.

Over the years, Byrnes said that laptop thefts and car break-ins have cropped up, and the partnership has worked closely with the 17th Precinct, tracking down surveillance tapes or reporting criminal activity to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

“It’s part of human society, so there’s always going to be a criminal here and there,” said Byrnes. “[But] I think the businesses feel very safe.”

A few blocks south, the Murray Hill and Gramercy neighborhoods have seen a slightly higher rate of violent crime, with three murders and 21 rapes in 2010 — although the area still ranks 15th safest in all five boroughs for violent offenses.

But NYPD statistics indicate that there were more than 2,200 grand larcenies in the 13th and 17th precincts, both of which patrol portions of the neighborhoods, in 2010. Those figures, which equate to 154 property crimes per 10,000 residents, plunge the area’s overall safety ranking to 64th out of 69 New York City neighborhoods.

Despite the prevalence of high-dollar thefts, the area has seen an overall decrease in crime. Burglaries in the 17th Precinct are down 42 percent from 2008, and robberies in the precinct dropped 33 percent in the same period. In the 13th Precinct, instances of robbery fell 18 percent from 2008 to 2010.

The high rate of property crime has also trickled into the Flatiron neighborhood, which falls into the 13th Precinct.

The area, known for its signature Flatiron building and its popularity among new technology companies, had three murders in 2010, up from just one in 2009. Rapes increased 30 percent, from 9 to 13. Those statistics earned the neighborhood a spot as 29th safest in the city for violent crime, and overall crime in the area decreased 70 percent from 1993 to 2010, according to the data.

But the neighborhood still ranked 67th out of 69 neighborhoods for property crimes, with an above-average rate of burglaries and about 158 grand larcenies per 10,000 people. 

Mark Thompson, chair of Community Board 6, which spans from East 14th to East 59th streets, said he was happy to hear that crime in the area had decreased overall, especially considering the state of the economy over the past several years.

As for the prevalence of property crime, Thompson theorized that an overall sense of safety might be leaving residents feeling too comfortable, too apt to leave a laptop resting unattended, for example.

“People aren’t as careful as they were in the past,” he said. “We still need to be vigilant.”

Residents and businesses in the area that falls under the 13th and 17th precincts have complained of vandalism or people loitering or drunken fighting in bars, but the police have ramped up their street presence in recent years, he said.

“Both the precincts have been cracking down on quality of life stuff,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he can remember a time in New York City when people avoided certain seedy streets and avenues. A longtime resident of Stuyvesant Town, he said First Avenue was once best avoided. Now, an influx of people, along with restaurants and bars that stay open late, have led to safer streets.

“Now I feel like I can walk down any street and not worry about something happening,” he said. “It’s a different world, really.”

To read the full report, visit www.dnainfo.com/crime-safety-report.