Less Crime in Forest Hill (For Now?)

The daffodils are shouting “Spring!” and it’s time to update the Forrest Hill crime report data.

In the Police Department database, the neighborhood runs from Forest Hill 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 Neighborhood Ass’n area.  It includes only one side of Forest Hill Ave, notably only one side of the Westover Hills Blvd. commercial area.

Micro$oft has a nice satellite view of the area.

For the period from the start of the Police Department Database, January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2020, that database contains 2268 offense reports for the neighborhood. Among those entries, “theft from motor vehicle” is the most common at 26%.

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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. “Abandoned property in car” might be more accurate. The count of “Destruction property/private property” incidents gives a high but approximate measure of the actual breakins. 

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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 68% of the total (ninth place, 64%, if we don’t count the 63 natural deaths).

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

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The increases then were largely driven by theft from motor vehicle (and associated entertainments enjoyed by the criminals chummed into our neighborhood by the goodies left in parked cars).

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

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That block is home to the 42d St.Parking Lot (and lots of on-street parking for the Park).

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Half of the crime reported in the block is theft from motor vehicle, with second place going to property destruction, often the case when the thief broke 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 cars with valuable property left on the seats.

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.

Time will tell whether the nice improvement in 2020 was fruit of the pandemic. For sure, the improvements were not limited to the thefts from cars.

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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 lead with (for sure, park-related) theft from motor vehicle:

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There are at least 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 almost all of the thefts are from the vehicles of park visitors (most of them naïve County residents), and that this crime is entirely preventable, it’s two decades past time for some LARGE signs in the 4200 block and at the Nature Center and 4100 Hillcrest and, especially, in and near the 42d St. parking lot, to warn the visitors:

                      Car Breakins Here! Lock your junk in your trunk.

Somehow, the City manages to post such signs at Maymont but not in Forest Hill.

080112 007