By Naeisha Rose
Queens and the rest of the city are on track to have the lowest crime rate in more than half a century and the lowest prison population in 35 years.
At a news conference at One Police Plaza in early December, the mayor and the police commissioner touted the sharp drop in felonies in 2017 and record lows in overall crime.
“We’ve seen the lowest number of index crimes here since the ‘50s and we’re – with informed, engaged, and empowered communities — we’re going to keep pushing those numbers down even further,” Commissioner James O’Neill vowed.
As of Sunday, the number of murders in Queens South totaled 37, up 12 percent from 33 the year before and went down by 7.1 percent in Queens North to 13 from 14, according to the latest NYPD data. The total number of homicides for the city as a whole reached 284 as of Dec. 24, down nearly 14 percent from 329 during the same span last year.
“Overall crime [is] down over 7 percent [and] almost 8 percent compared to last year,” Mayor de Blasio told the December news briefing before the latest numbers were in.
Crime is so low that as of Wednesday the prison population had fallen below 9,000 to 8,783.
“We’ve been carrying out a multi-pronged effort over the course of my first term to shrink our jail population, and today we see the results: a jail population lower than it’s been in 35 years,” said de Blasio.
In Queens South, which covers the 100, 101st, 102nd 103rd, 106th, 107th, 113th and 105th precincts, there was a 7.4 percent decline in robberies from 1,524 to 1,411 compared to early December of last year, according to CompStat. There was a 4.2 percent drop in felony assaults from 2,163 to 2,072, and a 14.8 percent decline in burglaries from 1,472 to 1,254. Grand larcenies declined by 5.9 percent from 3,314 to 3,118.
Queens North saw a 2.6 percent decline in robberies, bringing that to 1,327 from 1,363. Felony assaults dropped by 2.5 percent to 1,607 from 1,649. Burglaries declined by 10.5 percent from 1,706 to 1,527. Grand larcenies fell 10.2 percent from 4,911 to 4,409.
Queens North includes the 104, 112, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114, and 115 precincts.
Throughout the press conference Mayor de Blasio questioned police officials about specific headline-grabbing crimes that took place over the year.
Two Queens incidents that sprung up in the conversation were human trafficking and a disastrous fender bender, which became lethal.
During a vice sting, which police treated as a human trafficking rescue, a suspected Chinese prostitute named Yang Song, who allegedly approached an undercover officer to perform a sex act in exchange for money, jumped to her death while trying to evade arrest on Nov. 26, according to the NYPD. The Downtown Flushing operation was at the Tian Cheng Spa, located at 135-32nd Road.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said he would address the issue of human trafficking in northern Queens by working with the Federal Bureau of Investigations in a joint task force and reorganize the Vice Squad to focus on more crimes of that nature.
“We’re identifying locations throughout the city,” Boyce said. “We have Asian human trafficking, we have Central American [and] we also have gang members who are doing it as well.”
Song’s family and advocates from the Sex Workers Project took issue with the NYPD’s version of events and held a rally to get justice for her on Dec. 17, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Song’s mother, who flew in from China to attend the rally, told protesters she believed police were responsible for her daughter’s death. She said a plainclothes officer from the 109th Precinct had recently harassed her, but while at the precinct to point him out, her daughter was instead approached to be an informant, which she declined to do.
Another major incident that was brought up was a Richmond Hill parking dispute, which led to a Far Rockaway man being arrested for allegedly killing his friend and injuring five others in what started out as a fender bender, according to investigators.
Adrien Harry, 22, was charged with murder, attempted assault, assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon after he allegedly bumped his car into a BMW, got into a fist fight with the other driver and then jumped into his Hyundai to ram into the operator and those helping him.
Not only did he allegedly injure the other operator and bystanders, but he killed his friend Richardo Chattergoon, 23, in the process in front of the XS Hookah Lounge at 127-10 Liberty Ave on Dec. 10.
One of the factors in bringing down crime across the city was the Neighborhood Coordination Officer programming, according to O’Neill. He said Chief of Department Carlos Gomez, the highest ranked Hispanic officer in the NYPD, was the brainchild of the program and thanked him for his years of service. Gomez will retire at the end of December.
The NCO program was an initiative that was started four years ago to encourage residents and community leaders to work with local precincts in their area to bring down crime, according to the mayor.
“Increasingly, it’s the good who are strengthening their relationships with the NCOs – neighborhood coordination officers,” O’Neill said. “People are calling 9-1-1 or waving down police cars when they want to report something. They’re calling or texting their NCOs on their cell phones when something isn’t right.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose