The Forest Hills fires has Queens residents suspecting that a serial arsonist may be targeting Jewish people living in New York. The NYPD Arson and Explosive Squad is seeking a suspect who was described as “looking like a ninja,” but officials with the New York Police Department are not currently labeling the suspected cases of arson as hate crimes.
In a a related report by the Inquisitr, St. Louis police arrested a black man for causing church fires, and some suspected it was a hate crime.
The most recent of the Forest Hills fires took place in the middle of the night on Sunday morning. According to NBC, a house still under construction was set ablaze, but in this case, the house had been targeted once before on November 15, 2015. New York firefighters were able to put out the fire within two hours, but one firefighter was injured in the process.
In November, there were three other suspected cases of arson, which took place near the most recent fire. All in all, investigators say there have been seven suspected cases of arson since October 2o, and neighbors fear that the arsonist may start targeting occupied houses next, not just sites still under construction.
The owner of the construction site was a Bukharan Jew, and some residents fear the arsonist may be targeting New York’s Jewish people since all of the sites targeted have been owned by Jews. Aron Borukhov who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife and three children for the past 16 years told The Jewish Week that his neighbors are concerned.
“People are outraged and concerned,” said Borukhov. “The community needs to be proactive so the situation doesn’t escalate.”
NYPD officials have yet to call the Forest hills fires a hate crime, but the Bukharian Jewish community believes otherwise.
“If seven Jewish homes had been burned in France within a month, there would be much more of an uproar,” said Boris Yuabov, a doctor who has lived in the community for the past six years “We are scared. These fires are started in the dead of night in a neighborhood with many children and elderly individuals. This is a life-threatening situation.”
The Forest Hills fires have displaced 13 people so far, but no one has been injured during any of the incidents. So far, the only clue to the identity of the arsonist was an encrypted message found under a car’s windshield wiper.
“Decode this message to find out the person who caused the fire,” the note read, according to DNAinfo.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said they investigated the note as a lead, but it turns out it was a merely a game which led to a dead end.
“We believe it was set there by the perpetrator, but the individual identified in that encrypted code is not … We sat down, we talked to this person at great length. He doesn’t appear to have anything to do with it and can account for his time,” Boyce said.
The NYPD also said the Forest Hills fires were not started with any accelerant, which can be traced. Instead, the arsonist used construction materials found at the scene. The only clues they have to the person’s identity is video footage taken near the site of another fire.
The suspect in the Queens fires is described as being between five foot, six inches, to five foot, seven inches. He was seen dressed in a hooded sweartshirt in one incident, but another surveillance video showed a man “looking like a ninja.” He was seen wearing all black and carrying a backpack onto the construction site where another suspicious fire took place.
The NYPD has raised the reward for any information on the suspect to $12,500. Anyone with information about the Forest Hills fires is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
[Image via Jonathan Ubaydov/Twitter]