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Queens murder rate falls in first two months of year

Coming off a record-setting year when for the first time in three decades there were fewer then 100 murders in Queens, the borough’s murder rate has continued its downward trend in 2002.

The number of homicides in Queens from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24 has dropped 33.3 percent compared to the same period last year. Murders fell to eight from 12, according to statistics compiled by the New York City Police Department.

Last year, according to the NYPD Compstat figures used to track crimes, murders dipped below the century mark to 87. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown had said it was the first time since 1969, when there were 92 murders, that there were fewer than 100 murders in Queens County.

“We hope as the year goes on we will find that homicides drop,” said Assistant Chief Thomas Lawless of Queens Patrol Borough South. “If it keeps at the same rate, we will see a drop and an overall drop throughout the city.”

Lawless credited Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with continuing the best programs from the previous administration and adding new programs to continue the reduction in the murder rate.

“We are looking at taking guns off of the street and have about 92 so far this year,” he said. In addition, he said patrolling the areas where people congregate on street corners and known drug territories have helped to reduce homicides in Queens.

While the rest of the country is seeing a rise or leveling off in the murder rate, Lawless said, the number of murders in New York City have continued to decrease. He pointed out that last week there were only four murders throughout the five boroughs, a sharp contrast to a few years ago when there might have been four people killed in one day.

All city police precincts compile and submit their crime numbers to police headquarters in Manhattan every Monday. The reports are used to compile crime statistics and are ultimately sent to the FBI.

Of the borough’s 15 precincts, the 105th Precinct has had the most murders from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24 with four compared to none in the same time period last year. The precinct, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Springfield Gardens and from Floral Park to Cambria Heights, had a large jump in its homicide rate in 2001 to 18 from seven in 2000.

The 100th Precinct in the Rockaways had one murder this year as compared to zero during the same period last year. The 106th Precinct covering South Ozone Park, Glendale and Ridgewood had the same numbers of murders as last year — one.

The 108th Precinct covering Woodside and Sunnyside also had one homicide, which was the same as in the first two months last year. The 109th, which covers Whitestone and Flushing, saw murders increase to one from none during the same time last year.

Brown said since 1898 the lowest murder rates in Queens were during the years encompassing World War II when there were 1.1 murders per 100,000 people. The highest murder rates, Brown said, were 16.1 per 100,000 in 1991 and 17 per 100,000 residents in 1992.

“By continuing and expanding on the successful strategies that we have employed in the last few years,” the district attorney said at the end of last year, “I am hopeful that we will be able to reduce crime even further during the years ahead.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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