Jan. 1, 2011 By Christian Murray
While the murder rate in the Police Department’s Precinct 108 remained historically low in 2010, the overall crime rate went up nearly 4%, compared to 2009.
There was a significant jump in the number of reported rapes, robberies and felony assaults compared to 2009; however, these statistics remained low compared to 10 years ago.
There were two murders in the 108th Precinct — which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City—in 2010, based on the police dept’s latest crime stats from Jan. 1 through Dec. 19, 2010. This is down from three murders for the same period in 2009.
The first murder involved the unexplained dumping of a body under the Queensboro Bridge at the very beginning of 2010. Thomas Kavanagh, the police precinct captain at the time, did not believe the woman was actually murdered in the district. He said her body was simply discovered in the area and it was therefore assigned to the 108th precinct.
The second murder occurred in February when a Chinese deliveryman died shortly after being struck on his scooter by Richard Contreras, a Long Island City resident who was allegedly driving while intoxicated. Jiangiu Chen, who was working for the Sunnyside Chinese restaurant Ten Full Kitchen, which is located at 39-49 48th Ave, died at Bellevue Hospital.
Contreras struck Chen on the Long Island Expressway’s Service Road between 39th Place and 39th Street. Contreras was later charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter, among other charges.
The number of reported rapes in the precinct jumped 41.7%, from 12 in 2009 (Jan. through Dec. 19, 2009) to 17 in 2010 (Jan. 1 through Dec. 19, 2010). Robberies were up 21.6%, from 153 (Jan.1 to Dec. 19, 2009, to 186 for the same period in 2010. Meanwhile, over that same period, felony assaults jumped from 96 to 126, up 31.2%.
The reduction in the number of burglaries (254 reported Jan. 1 through Dec. 19, 2009, to 247 for the same period in 2010) and grand larcenies (475 to 450) was what essentially kept the overall crime rate from spiking.
While the crime rate was up, there was no reason for alarm, the police said throughout 2010. Furthermore, Don McCallian, the president of the United 40s Civic Association and well known figure in the neighborhood, said recently: “Police Precinct 108 was once shaky,” referring to the early 1990s. “Today, it is one of the best in the city, and the neighborhood is one of the safest.”
There were many incidents that occurred in Sunnyside in 2010 – much like any neighborhood in NYC.
The neighborhood’s biggest crime story took place at Casa Romana, a bar/restaurant located at 39-20 Queens Blvd. On August 28, 14 individuals were arrested after a late-night brawl erupted leaving five partygoersat a “Teen Night” event withserious injuries. A 15-year-old girl was stabbed in the chest, while a 16 year-old female was hit over the head with a chair requiring six staples. The other three partygoers suffered similar cuts and bruises.
The precinct confirmed that members of the Latin Kings were at the party and that they had to chase suspected criminals down the subway tracks at the 40th Street station. A police helicopter was also brought in.
The owners of Casa Romana were arrested and the bar/restaurant was later closed for good by court order, following intense lobbying by this neighborhood’s elected officials and community leaders.
There were several other incidents in 2010.
There was a shooting at El Potrero, a Mexican sports bar at 46-12 Greenpoint Ave., on Feb. 18, when a man went into the bar and shot a patron. The man survived after walking to Elmhurst hospital. Additionally, Manolo’s, a Mexican restaurant on the same block, at 46-26 Greenpoint Ave., was closed for dealing cocaine in July.
There was also the incident where a 20-year-old woman who was walking on 40th Street and 50th Ave. toward the subway was mugged by a man who was passing by in his car. Initially, the police said the man tried to pull the woman into his car and take off. However, days later, it was described as a mugging, where the man just took off with her purse.
Robert Burch, a local resident, came to the woman’s aid and helped her ward off the perpetrator.
There were a number of incidents- from burglaries to grand larcenies- that occurred in the Gardens over the summer months that led some residents to organize a meeting (through Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office) with the newly-appointed police precinct captain Donald Powers.
Powers, who spoke to the group on August 18, said in October that there hadn’t been any significant incidents since that meeting and that he had deployed 15 auxiliary police officers to monitor the Gardens area. He said at the time that the 15 officers were soon scheduled to leave.
2009 Murders solved
The two murders that occurred in the Sunnyside/Woodside neighborhoods in 2009 were also put to rest.
Gary McGurk, an Irish national and criminology student, confessed to killing a crime lab technician for the NYPD. McGurk, who was living in Woodside at the time, murdered Michelle Lee in her Skillman Ave. apartment in April 2009. He was sentenced to 37 years.
Meanwhile, Gino Florencia, formerly a Woodside resident, pleaded guilty to murdering a man in front of a 48th Street apartment building. Additionally, Florencia pleaded guilty to ordering the killing of two witnesses to that murder, who were expected to testify against him. The police caught him organizing the “hits” in a sting operation.
Florencia is expected to be sentenced to 33 years in prison this month.