QUEENS — In January, JP Freeley, a life-long Forest Hills resident, received an e-mail from a neighbor who found Freeley’s bank statements on his lawn.
Freeley, 42, a marketing expert, wrote back that someone had broken into his car and the thieves had probably thrown away the documents.
The neighbor responded that he also had his car broken into and as they found, other neighbors had similar experiences.
“So there was like this whole big e-mail that was building about it,” Freeley said.
As the exchange about the break-ins continued, Freeley suggested creating a Google group for those residents who wanted to stay informed.
The group, called Forest Hills Crime Watch, now has 73 members.
Since then, participants discussed in their posts a recent series of burglaries in the neighborhood, talked about suspicious people on their blocks and discussed when to call 911 and 311. They also exchanged tips on how to protect their property, for example whether lights in the driveway are helpful in preventing car break-ins.
The group is the latest watch group to pop up around the city.
Freeley said he preferred an e-mail group instead of social media because not everyone is Twitter savvy and some people are apprehensive about posting things on social media.
Currently, new members are accepted to the group if they are referred by other members “so that no criminal can get onto the list,” said Freeley. He also said he hopes that information reported by group members can be useful to the local precinct.
The 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, has been encouraging community members to join their Block Watchers program as well.
“It’s a great program and it takes like 15-20 minutes of someone’s time to join,” said Gigi Redzematovic of the 112th Precinct Community Affairs.
Volunteers are given block-watcher IDs, trained how to detect suspicious behavior and activity. They are also instructed how to give useful specifics when they call 311 or 911.
“It’s the eyes and the ears of the community,” Redzematovic said.
Those interested in joining Block Watchers at the 112th Precinct can contact Community Affairs at (718) 520-9321.