QUEENS — JP Freeley, a lifelong Forest Hills resident, had always thought his neighborhood was one of the safest in the city, until a number of his neighbors had their houses broken into during the past eight months.
Fearful he might be next, he decided to install three cameras around his house where he lives with his wife, two children and mother-in-law.
“I heard about burglaries here when I was a kid, but it was nothing like that,” said Freeley, 42, a marketing expert.
He is one of a number of residents who local businesses say have installed new security systems after a series of break-ins this year.
“People became paranoid,” said Mitchell Meyer, the owner of True Value Security Systems, who installs home burglar alarms and security cameras. He said the number of customers from Forest Hills went up in recent months by at least 50 percent.
“Their houses are very valuable,” Meyer said.
One customer, who lives in Forest Hills Gardens paid $5,000 to install a high definition camera system, which provides "crystal clear images," Meyer said. That's about twice as much as a regular set or cameras.
Burglaries in Forest Hills have gone up significantly this year.
In April, break-ins jumped 90 percent over the same time last year, fueled by a rash of burglaries in which jewelry and cash were taken, police said.
Overall crime in the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, is down more than 6 percent this year. But there were 120 burglaries between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, compared to 92 last year during the same time period, a 30.4 percent increase.
In the wake of the break-ins, Capt. Thomas Conforti, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, encouraged residents to consider getting security systems and cameras, which act as a deterrent and can provide police with evidence.
Freeley said he feels safer after installing the cameras. “It’s like having somebody sitting all night long and watching your house,” he said.
Theresa, who did not want her last name used, also installed a camera in her backyard last week. “I’m so nervous,” said the teacher, who has lived in Forest Hills since 1978.
Her house is in the area around Metropolitan Avenue, which in recent months has been targeted by a burglar, cops said. Theresa said her friend’s house only a couple of blocks away was burglarized in August.
Cops said the man they believe was behind those break-ins was arrested about two weeks ago.
“I’m also going to get additional locks on my front and back doors," said Theresa, who lives alone.
Al Glick, the owner of ABCO Master Lock and Key, which has been on Austin Street for 35 years, said that in the past month at least 10 residents called him to upgrade their locks. “Usually we get this kind of calls from people who just moved in, not those who already live here.”
Glick said he also started offering camera systems a couple of months ago, after customers kept asking about it. So far, he said, they installed them at two homes, he said.
Home burglar alarms are also a very popular security option, experts say.
Jesus De La Vega, 34, who lives in an apartment building on Yellowstone Boulevard, off of Austin Street installed one because he said the burglaries in the area made him anxious. “I have a small child,” said De La Vega, a stay-at-home dad.
“I wasn’t sleeping well." The alarm, he said, made him feel secure. “I actually sleep now.”