Monday, July 22, 2013

Street Crime in Forest Hills

A reader passed along a letter to me about a neighborhood watch being started in Forest Hills Gardens after a chilling robbery there late on Saturday, June 29th. Some of the language in the letter is a bit, how should I say, ahem, dated, as you'll see—I felt like it was written by someone circa 1970 and found it personally offensive at points—but anyway, here are some excerpts:


"We were walking each other home from having dinner on Austin Street. We all live within a 10 block radius or less from Austin Street, and have lived in the neighborhood for more than 17 years. Our children have grown up together. We get together three or four times a year to catch up and spend time together. We had dinner at the new restaurant, the Flying Pig.
"At about 11:20pm we left the restaurant. We walked another friend home to Yellowstone, and the three of us walked back via Austin Street, got onto 71st Continental and walked across Station Square, up Greenway Terrace and then turned onto the street, where one of the three of us lives. We were saying goodbye to each other, and out of nowhere, like magic…two Afro-American six foot males appeared on either side of the three of us! They each were pointing semiautomatic guns at us, and instructed us not to say a word and to turn over our bags. They took all our bags, my wedding band, my anniversary band and a necklace with a miraculous metal that I have been wearing since I was fifteen years old. One of the men just ripped it off my chest. As soon as we had handed everything over to them, the men disappeared in the same way they had first appeared….without a sign or warning. We were all in shocked and terrified. We went to a neighbor’s house and called the police.
"Our lives have never been the same since that night and never will again. I will never walk home again in the dark those 10 blocks from Austin Street. It doesn’t matter whether you are with a group of women or men. When faced with a gun….all opportunities to protect yourself fall by the wayside.
"We learned later that week that two more robberies had taken place after ours. On Wednesday, July 3rd at about midnight on 70th Avenue and Fleet Street a second gun-point robbery took place this time of a man. On July 2nd another man was robbed on 63rd Avenue and Alderton in Rego Park by two Afro-American women brandishing a knife.
"It is important for me to share all this with you because what these men took from the three of us….that was so valuable, more valuable than even my childhood miraculous metal, was our sense of Safety and Peace in our neighborhood. WE NOW, ALL HAVE LOST THAT. We need to be vigilant, more cautious. We need to watch out for each other and be alert to any strangers in our neighborhood. We need to share this information with each other and share it with the police. We need to add more street lights from Burns to Manse. We need more patrol cars in the area-especially at night. We need to consider placing video cameras outside our homes facing the streets. So that the criminals who are targeting our neighborhood know we are ALL watching.
"If you agree, please email me at foresthillswatch2013@gmail.com and let’s come together as community to protect our neighborhood, our homes, our families... and our right to walk home in the dark without fear our lives are in danger."


Personally, I don't know how in New York City you can be alert to "any strangers in our neighborhood," since just about every other person is a stranger. That's what's so great about living in New York City! But, whatever. I feel for this person. I've had my share of run-ins with nutjobs on the streets—nothing as bad as this thankfully—and experiences like these can leave you very shaken. So I can only imagine the suffering this caused this person. I hope they catch the perpetrators very soon, and in the meantime, be a little extra careful out there....

67 comments:

  1. This is absolutely terrible to hear. Also heard on the news there was another rape in the area, where are the police?! The only time I ever see them is checking bags in the subway. Time to move around the neighborhood.

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    1. Pulling people over while sitting in the Mobil station at 63rd in Rego Park, by the mall. Literally got a ticket for allowing everyone on my side cross and turning through the empty intersection because those people hadn't fully crossed the street. That was Saturday.

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  2. People wanted a Community Watch leader like Zimmerman convicted when he was serving his own community?

    Now if he was convicted that would have sent a disastrous message for everyone. But fortunately the jurors all came to the right decision.

    If I saw a guy with a gun from afar, I would have immediately called the police, but in NYC if I am caught with a GUN whether I have one or not I can be arrested. So I can't on my own protect those in need.

    Those laws are unjust and need to be challenged at the local and federal levels.

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    1. You'd cower and run on your own.

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  3. There should be plenty of cameras by the Flying Pig. Those perpetrators should be able to be caught and brought to justice.

    We also need more cameras for protection as well in areas where there aren't any.

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  4. Do we have a definite police report from this? I mean, I'd like some third party confirmation this happened without some witch hunt neighborhood watch being drummed up.

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    1. http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2013/29/fhgardensrobupdate_we_2013_07_19_q.html

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  5. Crimes reported are public record.

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  6. That is the problem with NYC. You can't shoot on your own with your own gun to protect yourself.

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  7. Shady, I just tried to email "foresthillswatch2013@gmail.com" and it bounced back.

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  8. umm, so the solution to this is that we all pick up guns and shoot the hell out of anyone who appears remotely suspicious? I guess that's what Adam Lanza did...

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  9. Maybe we can ask Obama to opine on the incident...?

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    1. Why do you say that? What are you getting at?

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  10. What does President Obama have anything to do with it, you racist?

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  11. Yeah, let's all buy guns and go on a racial witch hunt, like George Zimmerman. Don't make the streets of Forest Hills less safe than they are by going out and stocking up on weapons and walking the streets looking for trouble. The fact that this crime occurred doesn't mean we should naively walk the streets at night, thinking nothing like this can happen, but it also shouldn't allow us to give into our base lizard brained instincts and think that our judgment is sound enough to prescribe that we all start walking around with loaded weapons. Or even are adept enough to fire a gun without hurting ourselves, for that matter. Get a grip, people.

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  12. Of course this person it has to point out that the perps are "Afro-American" and "strangers in our neighborhood" is in quotes. Strangers... wink wink. I'm not saying this didn't happen and that we don't have to be vigilant, but this feels so contrived given the recent Zimmerman verdict.

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    1. I wrote the last graph of the post and put strangers in quotes. I thought I had made that clear but apparently hadn't. I've changed the post now to make it more clear where the letter begins and ends. Sorry for the confusion.

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    2. why does the term afro-american offend you?

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    3. I'll answer this. It's offensive because its dated and goes under the assumption that every black person in the US is an African-American which is not true. If you were of Asian descent and from Korea would you like to be called Chinese? If you were a Russian would you like to be called Irish? The answer is no. Would you take offense or be forced to believe that the person that called you the term that was racist or at the very least xenophobic? Of course it's a human reaction.

      Yes, in the past those terms were acceptable as were other offensive terms for all subcultures however, the acceptable terms for all races unless you're sure of what they are is White, Black, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American.

      As a black male that lives in Forest Hills, visits this blog religiously, and is not African American or Afro if you prefer, I take offense to the term.

      That being said, I understand the writer was clearly recovering from a traumatic experience and during those moments unsavory things can be said. But that does not take away the fact that afro-american can be offensive.

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    4. Wow! Some people like to stir the pot for no reason. If Afro American is offensive we have bigger problems.

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  13. Some really dumb comments here. We've had a neighbor get robbed at gun point, and she's trying to recover some equilibrium. For most of us, low crime was a reason we moved to FoHi, bought houses, etc. If you have a family (as I do), you have to be concerned; crime in this neighborhood has increased and some streets, as she writes, are dark.

    Comments about guns, Zimmerman, profiling, dated language, etc. really don't advance the conversation much.

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    1. As the owner of this blog I could not publish the excerpts from this person's letter without also noting how offended I am by some of the language used. I feel bad for this person, but I am also repulsed by the fact that someone could spend years living in New York City and still refer to people in a way last used sometime in the 1960's or 1970's. What the fuck is up with that shit?

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    2. Bigotry is ignorance, and ignorance is bliss. They just don't know any better.

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    3. The poor woman just got robbed at gunpoint and you're all judging her. She's petrified and you're picking on her grammar? What shame!

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  14. Regardless of how PC the description is, I personally appreciate having some idea of what the perps looked like so I can hopefully avoid a similar incident for myself and loved ones. I'd find the letter far less useful if the victim left out a description altogether.

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    1. So how are you going to keep your family safe based on her description? Avoid all black males? I am all for descriptions but given that we are in a fully integrated neighborhood, calling 911 everytime I see a black guy would be a bit much. The description is useful only if it has some unique idenitifiers. Simply saying it was a black guy is basically useless.

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    2. As I mentioned elsewhere on this page, the victims were able to give the police a description of at least one of the suspects and a sketch was compiled. One of the sketches can be found here - http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130705/forest-hills/two-gunpoint-robberies-forest-hills-five-days-cops-say

      So, while the details in the letter may not have provided much detail, the description the women were able to provide to the police was good enough to apprehend 2 suspects.

      Captain Conforti who heads up the 112th precinct made the following statement on 7/9:

      "....Detectives from Queens Robbery Squad have apprehended two individuals for these crimes....there are still other apprehensions to be made....so additional details can not be provided at this time. "

      Two women have since also been apprehended in connection with these robberies - http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130722/forest-hills/two-women-arrested-forest-hills-gunpoint-robbery

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    3. That's great that they were able to catch two suspects and hopefully they'll apprehend the man or men as well. What you perhaps didn't understand was that I was responding to the comment above stating that he/she believed that the description, as provided in the letter, would help keep his/her family safe. My response was to question how since, based on the description, the only action the commenter could take is to teach one's family to run away each time they see a black person he/she doesn't recognize. While I'm sure the person doesn't mean to be racist, you can clearly see what subtle message one would teach their kids as a result. I'm sure the victim did not think about the consequences in her state of mind, nor should we expect her to, but those clamoring for that sort of information should be aware that profiling does exist and that we all do it, rather than to deny that they are not capable of it because they are not racist.
      If I said I was mugged by a white female, you wouldn't be bothered by it because you know that no one is going to come up to you and question if you are a criminal or if you have a right to be where you are. Think about how you would feel if it did happen to you. What if someone thought you looked like a stranger or didn't belong because of something you were born with. That reality for minorities does nothing to help them, as a group, assimilate into mainstream culture. Some overcome or ignore this bias, some are held back by it.

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    4. I can see what you are saying...but I think the 'description' was only meant to be helpful and obviously, used with common sense. We shouldn't be running from everyone that fits the 'description' but our senses should be heightened at least until it is known that the perpetrators are caught.

      Again, I don't mean any disrespect but that's just the way I took the msg.

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  15. I agree with the above, the more info. on these bad people the better. Don't you agree?! Btw, these are friends of mine that this happened to, this is a true story. Prayers for all.

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  16. If anyone has any doubt that we are still in a recession, the fact that crimes like this are happening should tell you that there are some very desperate people out there, and "nice" neighborhoods like Forest Hills are natural targets, since criminals assume that whoever lives there has money.

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  17. There is ZERO language that is bigoted in this letter you posted. Odd that you find the people who were victims somehow bigoted even if only in language and don't find the profiling of the victims a bigoted act.

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    2. I personally agree and really didn't feel the letter the victim wrote was in any way bigoted. Did they use a politically incorrect term -- perhaps. I honestly don't know if the term used is actually considered offensive by the black community.

      I would like to think that the point in sharing this information via the blog was simply to alert people reading it (who presumably live in the neighborhood) of a recent rash of dangerous crime.

      Be safe folks.

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    3. I personally did not label it "bigoted." What I am offended by is a willing ignorance of modern times. It pushes a button with me since in my 15 years of living in this neighborhood I have noticed pockets of this part of New York City where the population seems stuck in a time warp, where they seem to still be living in the 1960s or 70s. Quite an amazing phenomenon actually! And probably worth a lot further exploration in a full-length book. My personal theory is it is a reaction to all of the progressiveness surrounding them in the City. They feel threatened by it and as a reaction have turned inward and closed their eyes and minds to society's evolution around them.

      I debated whether to comment on this when I read the letter, but decided I just had to - I can't let something like this go as if it is normal, because it certainly is not. This person doesn't sound like an 90-year-old who hasn't gotten out of the house in ten years and is out of touch with the world. They were just at The Flying Pig, for instance. So while I feel for the person as a crime victim, I am really repulsed by the trend I see here. I just couldn't let it go as the owner of this blog since to me it is so very, very odd.

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    4. By the way, I think pretty much the only placea today you would see or hear the term "Afro-American" still used -- aside, apparently from some places in Forest Hills Gardens -- is either on Mad Men, during a standup comic's routine, or in a movie comedy poking fun at someone who is way out of touch with the times. Kinda sad to me that in some pockets of this area there are some people who are so out of touch that they would be fodder for comedians.

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    5. http://youtu.be/_MFebZlUJ7E

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    6. I'm a fairly liberal person, but I feel you're making a mountain out of a molehill here. The context in which the author used the term was not mean in a derogatory fashion. If she meant to be derogatory, she could have made it very clear.

      As I said, she could have chosen a more politically correct term. Sometimes I'm unintentionally politically incorrect. My guess is we all can be accused of that at some point.

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    7. I'm genuinely lost, while I don't really mean to disrespect anyone I don't really follow the trends...what is the politically correct term?

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    8. I think you have to have empathy for the people that were not only physically attacked, having the necklace ripped off, and attacked at gunpoint. Although their letter may not be PC, you have to take into account, the trauma they felt and how their viewpoint of the neighborhood and how they live their life has changed.

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    9. My initial reaction on reading the victim's note was that it was a fake. But I will accept that a Police Incident Report was filed and thus the truth. Besides the dated adjective; I found it odd that the only additional attribute the victim could describe was a height of 6 feet. I was once told, that height is usually the least accurate description often given by a crime victim. Yes, it was dark. But I don't know about you, would you know what a semiautomatic gun looked like? As to street lights, I think FHGC would rather people get robed at gunpoint then upset the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

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    11. Susan please see my post above about what to call a black person or a person of any race. While I don't attend any of the black "community" meetings (it's meant as a joke) the correct term would be black for the reasons listed above.

      That being said ill have to agree that the persons ignorance at the time she wrote the letter should not necessarily be viewed as bigotry.

      Please keep posting I find your posts and opinions on places to be very insightful.

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  18. Doesn't the gardens have its own rent-a-cop force. Where the fuck were they? Booting someone again?

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  19. For anyone here that uses Facebook, you can read about these crimes on the 112th Precinct Community Council page, which can be found here - https://www.facebook.com/112thPrecinctCommunityCouncil

    On that page there is a sketch of one of the armed gunman who robbed the 3 women. Additionally, there is a sketch of the individual who sexually assaulted the woman 2 days ago on Queens Boulevard and 71st Road.

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  20. The literal night we moved to Forest Hills, we saw two women get their purses snatched by high school aged teens. I called 911 and followed them while on the phone. They started running full speed and I jogged slowly just to keep an eye on which way they were going. By the time I got one avenue over (3 minutes tops) a patrol car drove to my location and picked me up to help ID them once they were found, which was very quickly. When we pulled up to where they were being held, the kids had already changed their clothes. The police told me to stay in the car and confirm if they were the ones. Fortunately (or unfortunately) one was very tall and one was short and they just put long sleeves over what they were wearing so it wasn't hard to tell it was them. I was brought to the station and signed some documents. I was impressed by how fast everything went down. There are more unmarked police cars in FH than you think.

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  21. FH is still very safe, but I agree about street lights. There are places I walk at night where I literally cannot see the sidewalk because either the light posts don't exist, were felled in a storm and never replaced, or the dense foliage in the summer blocks the light completely.

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  22. support the negro college fund, those people need it. also more state and federal aid for the negro's too. obviously we don't give those people enough

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  23. I have spotted numerous unmarked police cars all over Forest Hills and Rego Park.

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  24. While I appreciate that there may be plenty of unmarked police cars patrolling the neighborhood, why not use marked cars? I'm more interested in deterrent's than I am in catching a crime in progress.

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  25. Drake, you're such a typical PC liberal and you're a closet racist yourself. You have to preface posting the letter by saying how offended you are by parts of it. Who gives a fuck? Two ppl were robbed at gunpoint. And then in a later comment you accuse ppl who dont think 'progressively' just like you as bigoted cavemen: "My personal theory is it is a reaction to all of the progressiveness surrounding them in the City. They feel threatened by it and as a reaction have turned inward and closed their eyes and minds to society's evolution around them." You're a real schmuck. Believe me, if you are walking home at night and see two black guys coming towards as opposed to two Asian guys, you're gonna be more wary of the black guys. And using your warped logic, that makes you a racist, you racist.

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    1. You're right on! Drake is a hypocrite.

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    2. The lady doth protest too much, methinks

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  26. Sadly they were robbed right after getting robbed at the flying pig

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  27. the flying pig post is funny lol, the rest is not!

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  28. FH is "safe" in comparison to other neighborhoods, but its easy to get to by subway and ppl come via mass transit and prey on the residents of the area. Always watch your back, even here.

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  29. Just look at what comes out of the subway or off the Q60 bus...

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  30. I see "people" coming out of the subway and off the Q60 bus....

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  31. I used to see cops all over. Now I see a lot less cops and more riff raff than ever walking around.

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  32. Seems like violent crime here is up.

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  33. Looks like they caught the women behind this - anyone have info on the robbery of Sergeys barbershop on Austin/Ascan Saturday night?

    http://foresthills.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/two-women-arrested-in-june-29-forest-hills-gardens-robbery-queens-da?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001&evar4=picks-1-post

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  34. This neighborhood has had such a quiet spell it was bound to happen. It't NY after all. Less cops in the neighborhood was due to the fact that it wasn't needed. They'll come back, scare the bad ones off, and we'll be back to the old days (hopefully). Then it will cycle all over again.

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  35. It is time for high police presence.
    Unmarked cars will not cut it.
    Where are our elected officials? Why arent they speaking out ?

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  36. There was nothing racist about the information. The description was that they were six feet talk, two men and African American. I am sorry but I am a colored woman and I do not find that offensive at all. It is the facts. People need to stop with the race card

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  37. Oops I mean *tall. I agree what about our elected officials?

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  38. I do agree that not all blacks are African American. If she did not see that and assumed well then I can see how it can offend someone but I don't think this person meant to offend anyone

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