NYPD statistics for 2007, released last week, impressed neighbors of the 102nd Precinct, where crime declined and homicides dropped 90 percent in one year.
In the areas that comprise the 102nd Precinct, which include Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and northern Ozone Park, murders dropped from 10 in 2006 to one by the end of 2007.
Residents, business owners, community leaders and elected officials credited the precinct’s officers for the decline.
“I’m always amazed at the work the precinct does with the (limited) resources it has,” said Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who represents parts of the area. “Only a fraction of the (city’s) budget goes to the precincts.”
The city’s precincts are also short staffed due to the recent shortage of police recruits, which makes it all the more “amazing” that the 102nd Precinct was able to accomplish such a sharp decline in homicides, Addabbo said.
Simcha Waisman, vice president of the Richmond Hill Block Association, agreed and said the 102nd’s commanding officer, Capt. Paul Piekarski, did an “excellent” job.
The recent expected, but sad, news that Piekarski is leaving the 102nd and transfering to the 105th Precinct in Queens Village hasn’t trumped the community’s hopes.
“We’re sorry to see him go,” said Maria Thompson, president of the 102nd Precinct Community Council. “He was an excellent leader, but we look forward to working with the new commanding officer, Captain Charles McEvoy.”
Close-knit and family-oriented communities were also great contributors, Waisman said, as they kept communication between members of the community and the precinct strong.
“Our civilian patrol works closely with the precinct,” Waisman said, adding that the 102nd Precinct Community Council and the precinct have always worked collaboratively.
“There is an exchange and flow of information back and forth, which helps the police to identify high crime areas or to target specific crimes,” Addabbo said.
The 102nd’s officers are community oriented, business owner Russell Alonzo, 33, said. They’ve visited his store, ADT Bike and Skate Shop, located on Jamaica Avenue and 114th Street — just four blocks from the precinct — to touch base and catch up.
“The block association has been doing great things, too,” Alonzo said. “They have been creating an atmosphere that’s less conducive to criminal elements.”
Thompson chalked up the homicide rate drop to prevention.
“The precinct tried to prevent problems before they got to the point of homicide or other things,” Thompson said. “They also mobilized the small groups of police officers … and used them to the best of their abilities in different locations.”
According to Addabbo, it’s the greater police presence in high-crime areas that has changed the atmosphere.
“The drop in crime and increase of police presence equates with residents feeling or believing that they’re safer,” Addabbo said.
Some people have always felt safe living or working within the 102nd Precinct’s jurisdiction.
“I didn’t even know there was crime that needed to go down,” quipped Cheryl Crews, a pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church on 104th Street and 59th Avenue.
Feeling safe and comfortable enough to walk around her neighborhood of seven years, Crews is glad to have never witnessed a crime there and now feels even more confident that she won’t.
Other crimes in the 102nd Precinct didn’t drop as drastically as homicides, but are still considered significant by community members.
Burglary declined by 8.1 percent, rapes by 13 percent and grand larceny auto by 22.4 percent.
“It’s been a steady work in progress to get to this point,” 39-year Woodhaven resident Thompson said. “The officers are very hardworking all the time … and there’s a basic feeling of trust in the precinct.”
Regardless of the reason, residents of these areas are relieved and feeling safer, as are some of their Queens neighbors who’ve also experienced diminished crime.
NYPD figures and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown named Queens the safest of the four boroughs with populations exceeding one million people, which include the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Overall, Queens saw a 13 percent decline in murders. New York City experienced the lowest homicide total in 40 years, recording 494 murders, a 17.5 percent drop from 2006.
Neighbors of the 102nd said they take pride in their precinct and hope to continue seeing improvements under the new commanding officer.