safest for all crime

morningside heights


Photo: Tiphanie Colon-Lamontanaro

26th precinct / population 49,508

Who would have thought that a neighborhood bordering on Central Harlem and West Harlem would be safer than Greenwich Village? Yet that's the case with DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety Report, in which the Village ranks second to last out of 69 neighborhoods for per capita crime, and Morningside Heights, located above the Upper West Side of Manhattan, ranks 38th.

Comedian George Carlin grew up in the neighborhood when it was populated with Irish working-class families. In a comedy routine, he called the area "White Harlem" because the name Morningside Heights wasn't tough enough.

Today, Columbia University dominates the neighborhood and owns much of the real estate there and in nearby Manhattanville, which it began buying up in the 1960s. Over the decades, residents have moved out and students and university employees have moved in while the school moved forward with expansion plans. That could explain why the low-density area, covered by the 26th Precinct, has seen a 76 percent drop in major crimes from 1993 to 2010, with burglaries down 87 percent, robberies off 77 percent and car thefts dropping 93 percent for that period.

The neighborhood's college-town feel can lull students and residents into a false sense of security, but there was a 3 percent uptick in major crimes from 2009 to 2010. Property crimes rose slightly, by 2 percent, with a 24 percent drop in car thefts balanced by a 36 percent increase in burglaries. Even so, the area ranks 10th safest in the city for property crime rates.

Violent crimes are more of a concern. The neighborhood drops to 47th out of 69 for this group of crimes, with felony assaults up 39 percent in 2010 to 107, and rapes up 30 percent, to 13, for a lowly ranking of 60th. Murder remained rare, at just two in both 2009 and 2010. Even though robberies dropped by 11 percent in 2010, to 175, the area comes in 53rd for this category.