safest for all crime

sunnyside & woodside

Long Island City

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.