By Ivan Pereira
Even though overall crime in Queens dropped 3.2 percent in 2008, City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) cautioned that budget cuts to the NYPD could set the stage for a rise in felonies in 2009.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week said crime across the city decreased nearly 3.5 percent, with 113,348 incidents in 2008 compared to 117,526 in 2007, based on Police Department statistics Queens also had a decline in reported criminal activity, with 24,775 incidents last year compared to 25,581 in 2007 — a 3.2 percent drop. The latest figures are through Dec. 21.
“The continuing reduction of crime is a testament to the quality of our police force — the finest in the world — and to our determination to find innovative ways of turning up the heat on criminals,” the mayor said in a statement.
Vallone, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, called the reduction in crime misleading since citywide murders were up 5.2 percent to 501 homicides in 2008 and robbery was up 1.8 percent to 21,475 incidents in 2008. The councilman predicted that those numbers would increase due to the city’s tighter budget and slashing of police programs, such as Queens Transit Task Force, which could close Jan. 5, according to the New York Post.
“When you combine those statistics with the decimation of the police force, it does not bode well with the future,” Vallone said.
In Queens, the level of criminal activity varied in 2008 depending on location, crime statistics showed.
Patrol Borough Queens North, which oversees the 104th, 108th, 109th, 110th, 111th, 112th, 114th and 115th precincts, reported 13,070 incidents last year, nearly 4 percent fewer than the 13,609 incidents reported in 2007, according to the NYPD. Queens North had a 17.8 percent drop in reported homicides with 23 murders in 2008, compared to 28 the year before.
The only major crime that increased in the patrol area last year was robbery, with 2,063 incidents in 2008 compared to 1,934 in 2007.
Patrol Borough Queens South, which oversees the 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 105th, 106th, 107th and 113th precincts, had a 2.23 percent decrease in overall crime, with 11,705 reported crimes. Despite the decline, the precincts recorded increases in several major crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, according to the NYPD.
There were 68 homicides in southern Queens in 2008, a 62 percent jump from 2007, when there were 47 murders, police statistics show. Rape was up 1.1 percent last year with 174 reported incidents taking place within the precinct’s area compared to 172 in 2007. Robberies in Queens South increased from 2,380 in 2007 to 2,401 in 2008, according to the NYPD.
Last year the NYPD’s Operation Impact Program placed rookie officers in the 103rd Precinct to help curb the crime in the area. Vallone said the future of the program is uncertain due to the city’s budget cuts.
The councilman said the cut in rookie officers will make it harder for the NYPD to cut down on misdemeanors such as graffiti in addition to more serious crimes.
“They are still able to get pretty quickly crimes [during a] crisis,” he said referring to borough police officers. “But to do that they have had to stop focusing on quality-of -life crimes,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.