NEW YORK (JTA) — The New York Police Department has sent several elite units to a Queens neighborhood where several Jewish homes have been set on fire and has published surveillance video (embedded below) of the suspected arsonist.
The police announced Monday they are dispatching a Strategic Response Unit to Forest Hills to address the seven arson attacks there since October, The Daily News reported.
Seven fires, the most recent set Sunday, have targeted new homes under construction for Bukharian Jewish owners. According to radio station WINS, a rabbi owns the home torched most recently.
An estimated 50,000 Bukharians, Jewish immigrants from central Asia, live in New York, the vast majority of them in Forest Hills and adjacent neighborhoods. In Forest Hills, the construction by Bukharians of large, expensive homes, mostly on plots that once housed more modest residences, has sparked tensions with longtime residents in recent years.
“Right now we have members of the Arson and Explosion Squad, Major Case Unit from the NYPD, Fire Marshals, and Queens detectives all concentrated on this area to find out who this person is,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce said, according to the Daily News.
Police, who said they do not believe the arsons are motivated by anti-Semitism, also plan to patrol the area at night.
“We’re not looking at this as a terrorist-related incident,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, according to the Daily News. “We’re not looking at it as a hate crime incident either.”
While the police last week believed they had a suspect, based on information in a note left at the site, the suspect had an alibi and appeared to be innocent.
The Bukharian Jewish Center is offering a $50,000 reward for information on the suspect. The NYPD is also offering a $2,500 reward.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).