Problem in Paradise: Theft from Motor Vehicle in Forest Hill

The daffodils are budding in the alley and I still haven’t updated the Forest Hill crime report data.  Let’s get to work.

First the geography: In the Police Dept. database, the neighborhood runs from the park to the Boulevard and from Forest Hill Ave. to the river:

As you see, this does not include all of the Forest Hill Neighborhood Ass’n area and does include some of the Westover Hills Ass’n area.  It includes only one side of Forest Hill Ave, notably only one side of the commercial area.

Microsoft has a nice view of the area.

For the period from the start of the Police Department Database, January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2018, that database contains 3,081 offense reports for the Forest Hill neighborhood. 

The database contains lots of duplicates.  In this case, 999 of the entries duplicate the incident number, offense code, and offense number of another incident, leaving 2,082 unique entries.

Among that 2,082 entries, “theft from motor vehicle” is the most common at 27%.

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I like to call those incidents “car breakins” but that is not accurate: Most of those are cases where park visitors left the car unlocked.  The count of “Destruction property/private property” incidents gives a high but approximate measure of the actual breakins.  “Abandoned property in car” might be more accurate.

As usual in a quiet neighborhood, most of the incidents involve property crime.  In the present case, the most frequent violent crime is simple assault, in tenth place behind 69% of the total (ninth place, 67%, if we don’t count the 56 natural deaths).

The neighborhood was enjoying a consistent pattern of improvement until 2015.

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The increases then were driven by increases in theft from motor vehicle.

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By far our worst block for crime is 4200 Riverside Drive.

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That block is home to the 42d St. Parking Lot.

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Half of the crime reported in the block is theft from motor vehicle, with second place going to the property destruction where the thief had to break in because the car was locked.

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No telling how much of the rest is spillover from the criminals lured into our neighborhood by the unlocked cars.

The earlier decreases in the 4200 block came after Parks’ 2005 response to neighborhood complaints: They started locking the gates to the 42d. St. lot at night and off season and they installed rocks to block parking in the part of the lot that is less visible from the street.

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I attribute the recent increases to the increased use of the Park, the removal of the rocks in 2016, and the reassignment of Stacy, the bicycle cop.

Aside from 4400 Forest Hill (mostly the nursing home) and 4700-4800 Forest Hill (the commercial area), the other blocks at the top of the list are high theft from motor vehicle blocks:

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There are two lessons here:

  • Leaving stuff in the car, especially in an unlocked car, is an invitation to lose the stuff and to help chum the neighborhood for criminals; and
  • Given that most of the thefts are from the vehicles of park visitors, it’s past time for some LARGE signs in the 4200 block and at the Nature Center and 4100 Hillcrest and, especially, in the 42d St. parking lot, to warn the visitors:
                                             Car Breakins Here! Lock your junk in your trunk.

If you share my view on that, please contact our Councilwoman and fill in the Park Master Plan Questionnaire.  Here is what I said there:

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