BY JON CRONIN
For two months the Forest Hills arsonist has not reared his hooded head in the community, but residents are still fearful and now leaders of the Bukharian community are raising the reward from $50,000 to $62,000 in order to hasten his capture.
Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York organized a meeting between the NYPD and the members of the Bukharian community as way to familiarize the police with a population whose traditions and culture they might not understand.
Beginning in late October and through early December, the arsonist allegedly burned down homes he felt were architecturally inconsistent with the many of the homes in the Cord Meyer district of Forest Hills. The homes were under construction, there were no deaths, or injuries, but several fires spread to nearby homes where families were displaced.
Each home was owned by a member of the Bukharian community, and the styles of the houses often pushed the boundaries of local zoning regulations to their limit by extending the perimeter of the house as much as possible.
David Pollock, director of Government Relations and Jewish Security for the JCRC, who organized the meeting, said it had two purposes; to educate the NYPD about Bukharian culture and to understand the apprehensions of the community.
Captain Judith Harrison, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct and Assistant Chief Diana Pizzuti, commanding officer of Queens Borough North, and NYPD detectives assigned to the Forest Hills arsonist case attended the meeting on Jan. 25, that began at the Bukharian Heritage Museum in Elmhurst and ended in an informal gathering at a local restaurant where community leaders spoke candidly with NYPD officials about their fears.
“We wanted to build a bridge between the NYPD and the Bukharian community,” said Pollock, and hoped this unique opportunity would teach them about the Bukharian’s history and customs.
He said the Bukharians are frustrated and want to do anything they can, which is why they recently added another $12,000 to expedite the capture.
“It’s clear the police need more leads,” said Pollock.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin