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Forest Hills holds burglary meeting

Sgt. Claudia Bartolomei, of the 112th Precinct, presents residents with a map of the recent burglaries. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

A resident of Forest Hills Gardens came home one night in February and immediately knew something was not right.

“There was a strange feeling in the house,” said the resident, who did not want her name mentioned. “Then I saw the back door wide open.”

That particular resident had jewelry stolen from her home, making her one of nine residents in Forest Hills to be burglarized in an unsettling pattern from February through the end of March.

In light of the recent break-ins, the 112th Precinct decided to hold a special community council meeting Tuesday night at Our Lady of Mercy, at 70-01 Kessel St., to quell fears and remind residents that they, too, can play an integral part of the investigation.

Capt. Thomas Conforti, commanding officer for the 112th Precinct, along with other officers and representatives from the Queens district attorney’s office, opened the floor to nearly 200 residents, who packed the meeting.

“We are not here to scare everyone, but to calm everyone down and let them in on the investigation and tell them how they can help,” said Conforti. “The partnership with the neighborhood is the biggest asset I have in the fight against this pattern. Everyone here knows their neighbors and they know their patterns. If something seems off, be observant.”

Conforti said 911 calls have dramatically increased in the last month, meaning that residents are being vigilant and keeping their eyes open to suspicious activity.

But the commanding officer also suggested residents take other steps to protect their homes.

“Criminals are opportunistic. If they don’t have to break a window or a door, they won’t,” he said. “They want to make as little noise as possible. That is why it is extremely important to keep windows and doors locked.”

The commanding officer also suggested residents consider installing video cameras to deter potential burglars.

“Burglars are afraid of video, they are not afraid of bars and alarms,” he said. “Those can be bypassed.”

Conforti said the nine burglaries in the last two months all followed a similar pattern: wooden doors were either kicked or pushed in during weekdays when residents were not home. Only the last incident, on St. Patrick’s Day Sunday at noon, did a break-in happen on a weekend.

To combat this pattern, Conforti said the precinct initiated a vast deployment of both uniformed and plainclothes officers throughout the neighborhood.

“Is it a success? No, not until we catch the people responsible for the activity,” he said.

Though the main focus of the meeting was the cluster of crimes occurring in the last two months, one woman in the anxious audience said she experienced a burglary that predates the current pattern.

The woman returned from a hospital stay in July to find her jewelry and expensive electronics stolen. She has since installed an alarm system at her house.

“It was expensive, but worth it,” she said. “Being burglarized leaves you feeling very violated and very unsafe in your own house. It’s just so disturbing that this is happening in a quiet area like Forest Hills.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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