The number of murders rose from two in 2004 to eight in 2005, making last year the deadliest for the area in several years, although the rate still is historically low when compared to 16 homicides in 1990.The number of reported rapes grew by 15 in the precinct, from 10 to 25 last year - a 150 percent increase over 2004 - in a trend seen in several Queens precincts that have recorded a rise in sexual assaults over the past several years.Law enforcement officials and neighborhood leaders attributed the upturn in reported rapes to greater public education, but there was no such explanation for the jump in murders.Diane Ballek, president of the 108th Precinct Community Council, could give no reasons for the rise in murders, although she noted that some recent killings appeared to be drug-related.Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the precinct had the greatest drop in crime in the borough, but he said in Queens he saw an increase in gun violence."While the total number of shootings in the county decreased in 2005, there continued to be disturbing signs that guns are making a reappearance on the streets," he said.The Police Department, an official said, attributed the rise in rapes in the 108th Precinct to greater education on the part of victims, who are now more likely to press charges, and not a reflection of more violence. As with all precincts in city, the 108th has a Domestic Violence unit that tracks cases and does follow-ups with victims.Ballek noted that most of the rapes were among persons known to one another."Whenever a rape occurs, it is a terrible thing," she said, but in the 108th generally it is not a stranger committing the crime, she added."We don't have to worry about a serial rapist out there," she said. She said she was upbeat about the broader decline in crime in the precinct. "I think it is great," she said, attributing the drop in crime to the staffing decisions made by the commanding officer, Capt. Matthew Whelan. As an example, she said the precinct is sending officers to bars to cut down on underage drinking."We just received 24 new officers," she said. On the increase in murders, she was circumspect: "There is going to be crime, but overall we are doing well."Despite the increase in rape and murder, the 108th saw the greatest drop in crime, DA Brown said."The 108th Precinct in Long Island City recorded the greatest decrease among the 16 police precincts in Queens County with a drop of 17.27 percent in violent crime," he said.Rapes also rose in the 110th and 115th precincts, representing Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Corona and Elmhurst, which followed the pattern of the 108th Precinct with overall drops in crime but more sexual assaults.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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