By Stephen Stirling
Through Dec. 23 the 109th Precinct – which covers the communities of Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Malba, Beechhurst and parts of Auburndale and Bay Terrace – had recorded a 33 percent drop in auto theft to go along with double digit percent drops in both grand larceny and robbery.According to criminal statistics, there were 312 reports of auto theft in the precinct in 2007, compared with 469 from last year. Robbery rates were down to 227 incidents from 257 last year and grand larceny reports were down to 881 from 990 in 2006 – both drops of just over 11 percent.Three weeks into December, the precinct reported six murders in 2007, which matches the total from 2006. The murder rate represents a 50 percent increase from 2001, but a 72 percent decrease from 1995, when 22 murders occurred in the precinct's coverage area.The murder of Maurice Parker in May triggered a strong outcry from the community and prompted fears of gang violence when members of the community said he was gunned down by members of the El-Salvadorian gang MS-13. Authorities later said Parker's murder was not gang-related, but remains unsolved. The stabbing death of Hung Chi Zhang shortly after the Lunar New Year in February also elicited an outcry from the Asian community in Flushing. In November, 22-year-old Kendall Walker of 44-35 Colden St. was sentenced to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter charges in Zhang's death. Reported rapes in the 109th Precinct were also level when compared to 2006 at 18, according to the statistics.Citywide, murder rates are at their lowest levels since accurate police records started to be kept in 1963. As of Dec. 16, the city was on track to record fewer than 500 murders, the first time this would occur since record-keeping began.Despite the overall drops in the 109th Precinct, reports of felony assaults and burglaries were both up considerably from last year, however. According to the statistics, assault rates were up more than 15 percent, jumping from 205 to 245 reported incidents while burglaries were up more than 21 percent, with 540 burglaries reported in the area through Dec. 23 compared with 443 in 2006. Burglaries have been on the rise throughout northeastern Queens in recent years. The 111th Precinct, which borders the 109th to the east, has seen a 10 percent increase in burglaries in the last 2 years, though in 2007 they have experienced a 15 percent drop from last year.109th Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Matthew Wheelan could not be reached for comment.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.