Crime Report for Forest Hill Neighborhood

The 2021 data in the RPD database have had a chance to settle down and it’s time to update the Forest Hill crime report data.

The City defines the neighborhood to run 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, i.e., 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 Database, January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2021, that database contains 2334 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. The count of “destruction property/private property” reports with the same incident number as a theft from MV, 51, suggests of only about 8.3% of the thefts were breakins. Most were cases where the owner left the car unlocked. “Abandoned property in vehicle” 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 68% of the total (ninth place, 66%, if we don’t count the 64 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).

More recently, things have been back on a path to improvement.

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By far our worst block in terms of total offense reports is 4200 Riverside Dr.

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Note: In the Distant Past, RPD reported offenses by street address, except for family issues such as incest. They now report only by the block, e.g., “42XX Riverside Dr.” The Freedom of Information Act gives them room to be about as unhelpful as they like and they clearly think being unhelpful in this respect is more important that being transparent.

The 4200 block is home to the 42d St. Parking Lot (and lots of on-street parking for the Park).

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Forty-nine percent of the crime reported in that block is theft from motor vehicle, with second place going to property destruction. The data suggest the 22 of the 59 “destruction” incidents were car breakins, leaving about 157 thefts where the car was unlocked.

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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 recent improvement is fruit of the pandemic. For sure, the improvements reflected those in the thefts from vehicles.

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Aside from 4400 Forest Hill (probably driven by 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.

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

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Another side to the story: A contact at RPD whose opinions I value suggests that signs don’t do much good. I still think they are worth a try: They are inexpensive, especially when compared to the costs of, e.g., increased policing.

Note added on January 30: We took a walk down to the 42d St. lot on this chilly Sunday and spotted this:

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The location is not good: It doesn’t command the entrance to the path. But it’s a small step in the right direction.