safest for all crime
108th precinct / population 113,200
The westernmost neighborhoods in Queens — Sunnyside, Woodside and part of Long Island City — are a mix of the gritty, the bohemian, the glitzy and the blue-collar. Queens Boulevard, once lined with topless bars, became the target of a crackdown in the 1990s by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Crime was so prevalent in 1990 that the city enlisted Vietnam veterans to roam the streets to deter criminals.
From the industrial and artist-filled corridors of Long Island City to the garden apartments of the once strongly Irish Sunnyside and Woodside, there has been a dramatic push during the past two decades to reinvent the area, which didn't escape the crack epidemic in the late 1980s and early 90s. In the process, total crime has dropped dramatically — 79 percent from 1993 to 2010 — and new housing and businesses are sprouting at a fast clip.
Citizens once patrolled Woodside to chase off prostitutes and pushers. During the 17 years to 2010, murder was slashed 80 percent, with just two killings in 2010. Shootings have also nearly been eliminated, with just one in 2010, for a 93 percent drop since 1993. Since the early 90s, crime in six of the seven major categories was cut by at least half.
The areas demographics have changed markedly since 1993, too: the 2010 population was identified as 34 percent Asian, 35 percent Hispanic, less than 4 percent black/African-American and 44 percent white (Hispanic percentages include people who also identify as black or white). This increased Asian population is diverse: Cambodians, Thais and Vietnamese all call Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City home. That last area in particular is transforming itself from an industrial zone to a sought-after residential destination, especially for artists and other creative types.
Still, there remains a dangerous undercurent in the neighborhoods. Rapes in the precinct were up more than 40 percent from 1993 to 2010, and up 89 percent from 2008 to 2009, to 17. And these crimes weren't committed by strangers, according to the precinct's commanding officer, but by people known to the victims. Robberies also leapt up, by 20 percent from 2009 to 2010, to 195, and felony assaults rose 33 percent, to 130, during that time.
Increase in reported rapes, 2008 to 2010
Drop in shooting incidents, 1993 to 2010
Photo: Getty/NY Daily News Archive
Michelle Lee, 24, had a promising future. A recent graduate of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, she had landed a job with the NYPD as a criminologist, but she was secretly tormented about her relationship with her boyfriend and former classmate, Gary McGurk (pictured, left). Lee suspected that he had been lying to her about suffering from terminal cancer, and she had been giving him money to pay medical expenses. When she refused to keep giving him money for the treatment of his "illness" in April 2009, he attacked her inside her Sunnyside apartment, hitting her four times in the head with a hammer. He then staged a gruesome crime scene, burning her with a hot iron, stabbing her in the neck and positioning her body on the bed to make it appear that an intruder had committed a sex crime. McGurk was later arrested and pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced in June 2010 to 29 to 37 years in prison.
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