By Matthew Monks
But the murder rate tripled with nine cases vs. three the year before.Capt. Scott Shanley, however, called the murder rate an “anomaly” and applauded the overall crime drop. “The number was an anomaly because a lot of the indicators for violence were down, specifically robberies and felony assault,” Shanley said in a telephone interview.He contended that the murders, four of which are still open cases, could have happened anywhere.”A lot of it didn't really stem from anything in the precinct,” he said. The murder rate “really is an anomaly compared with the other statistics.”The precinct saw drops in four of the city's seven main crime categories.Burglaries were down 23 percent to 574 cases. There were 746 in 2003.Robberies took the second largest plunge, falling 22.5 percent to 320 cases. Auto thefts declined 12.8 percent to 521 cases, 77 less than last year. Felony assaults dropped from 227 to 213 – a 6 percent difference.On the other side, rapes were up 45.6 percent with 22 cases, seven more than in 2003. And grand larceny climbed 8.5 percent to 608 cases.And it seemed like every other month spawned another gruesome murder in the precinct that covers 7.5 square miles in Glendale, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Middle Village.The murder victims included a Maspeth truck driver executed and set ablaze inside a tractor trailer cab on 58th Street in September; two young Hispanic men who were discovered bound with duct tape and riddled with bullets in Maspeth in August; a Maspeth teenager hacked to death with a Samurai sword at a friend's house in June; an Ecuadorian immigrant knifed to death inside the bar where he was employed as porter in May; a Ridgewood barbershop owner shot in the head inside a Metropolitan Avenue nightclub in April; and a Pittsburgh resident killed outside a Cypress Avenue tavern in March.Information on the other two murders was unavailable.Despite the violence, Shanley, who took the reins of the 104th in May, considered the year a success.”We definitely had an impact on locking up the right people,” he said. “Things are going really well. We're hoping to continue in 2005.He credited the crime drop to the precinct's year-old “Operation Impact,” which assigns walking beat cops to crime-plagued southern Ridgewood from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day.The initiative will be slightly modified in 2004, expanding to the Myrtle Avenue corridor from Cypress Avenue. Brooklyn is also adding an impact zone in Bushwick, which borders the precinct, he said.The captain said the 30 officers assigned to Ridgewood's impact zone contributed to a 20 percent increase in robbery arrests and a 17 percent rise in burglary arrests.He added that a crackdown on graffiti since September yielded roughly 50 arrests for vandalism, a substantial increase from last year.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.