Police, Jewish NYC neighborhood flummoxed by serial arsonist

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bukharian community, city officials call for unity in face of arsons.

NEW YORK (AP) — Somebody has been burning down new homes in a New York City neighborhood populated by Bukharian Jews, and police aren’t sure whether the victims are being targeted for their religion, their architectural taste, or for no reason at all. Bukharian community leaders met Tuesday morning with Borough President Melinda Katz, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, and a host of other city lawmakers to discuss heightened security measures for the Forest Hills neighborhood that has been ravaged by a spate of arsons. “This is something that we take extremely seriously and the community stands together in making sure that we find this arsonist that is out there destroying not only people’s homes, but people’s lives and people’s dreams,” Katz said at a news conference following the meeting, which took place at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills. On Monday, the NYPD added two fire sites to the list of arsons that now stretches back to Oct. 20, which have all targeted Jewish-owned homes under construction in the heavily Bukharian neighborhood of Cord Meyer. “Today’s meeting was a very good sign that both the community and the Police Department, Fire Department and elected officials are all interested in solving the problem at hand,” said Aron Borukhov, a Bukharian community leader.

The NYPD has also added more resources including a command post at the intersection of 112th Street and 68th Avenue to help in the hunt for the suspect — a man caught on surveillance video wearing all black — who police said has struck seven times since Oct. 20. She added the 112th Precinct is receiving additional units from other precincts and that buildings under construction would be the focus of the patrols. Now the Bukharian community is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the of the arsonist, in addition to $12,500 offered by crime stoppers.

Police say they don’t have evidence suggesting that the arsons are hate crimes, but the fact that most of the victims have been Bukharian Jews, a group that fled persecution in Central Asia, has the neighborhood on edge. “I don’t know what to think,” said Rabbi Zalman Zvulonov, whose future home, still under construction, was torched early Monday morning — the second time it was targeted in three weeks. “There are only Jewish houses burning so that tells you something. The task force would consist of volunteers “concerned about the well-being of the community” who will be “patrolling the area … in conjunction with the police department,” said resident and local activist Aron Borukhov. Boyce said that while the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is looking at the case, the motive is still unknown and the fire are not currently being investigated as hate crimes. Toby Stavisky said, “It’s sad that [Bukharian Jews] cannot feel safe in their homes anymore, that they left a disturbing situation in the former Soviet Union and they have to face this in their new home.”

It contained six rows of five letters and 18 rows of two numbers, along with the following instruction: “Decode this message to find the person who caused the fire.” A detective and FBI agent both decrypted the puzzle and came up with the name of a store owner, whom police questioned and ruled out as a suspect. Boyce said fire marshals and investigators from the department’s arson and explosion squad, as well as the major case unit, believe the suspect likely lives nearby. Ruben Boruhkov, who came to New York in 1980 from Tajikistan and whose sister lives next door to a house that burned on Nov. 25, said the culprit must have a motive.

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