Forest Hills Cops Turn to Social Media After Car Break-in Spree
QUEENS — Now the dragnet for the Forest Hills Precinct will include the World Wide Web.
“I want to know what’s going on,” said Capt. Thomas Conforti, who oversees the precinct, at a recent community council meeting. “Word has gotten back to me that there are people discussing issues in the community, but they don’t want to report to the police because they don’t think it’s important enough.”
Conforti said the idea came to him after a series of some 18 auto break-ins in the precinct this year.
Most of the incidents occurred in Forest Hills Gardens and close to the Grand Central Parkway near Jewel Avenue, he said, and thieves were mostly stealing GPS devices and loose change left in the vehicles.
“There were people talking about the auto break-ins issue in the Gardens and they were tweeting: ‘Yes, my neighbor got it,’ and they said they saw an individual acting suspicious,” Conforti said. “And they don’t call 911. They tweet it."
Conforti said he wanted to create a bridge so social media users can inform the police about what’s going on in the neighborhood via Twitter and Facebook.
He said the precinct will also tweet news about major incidents as they happen, hoping to reach witnesses or other people who can provide tips.
“Basically, we want to hear what people are seeing in real time,” Conforti said.
Meanwhile, Conforti said his precinct had used a unique strategy to deal with the auto break-ins.
“We put some cars out that belonged to us, but looked like other cars and we did a pretty much aggressive omnipresence in those areas,” he said.
As a result, he said, the police have made four arrests, which led to the number of break-ins decreasing for a couple of weeks, although they have since risen again.