New York City’s 103rd police precinct, where Officer Eddie Byrne was shot 20 years ago and Sean Bell was killed in 2006, is generally much safer, reports the New York Times. Three detectives go on trial this week in the death of Bell, 23, who was shot after he and friends left his bachelor party at strip club. Officers may have believed that someone in his group was armed. After Bell hit a detective with his car and then crashed into an unmarked police van, the police fired 50 shots, killing Bell and wounding two friends. No gun was found in the car.
Both shootings, low points for the police in their eras, took place in south Queens neighborhoods with some of the most heavily patrolled streets in the city. In the area, more than 220 officers and 114 auxiliary police officers cover some of the city's most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, with new immigrants from countries including Bangladesh and Jamaica mixing with the predominantly black long-term residents in middle- and lower-income neighborhoods. Byrne, 22, was shot in the head while he sat in a patrol car guarding a house. Homicides in the precinct rose to 51 in 1991 from 30 in 1988, the year Byrne was shot. There were eight murders in the precinct last year, and an overall decline of about 75 percent in crime since 1990.