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Hunt on for Forest Hills arson suspect

By Gabriel Rom

For residents of Forest Hills and Rego Park, the sight of detectives and fire marshals milling around their residential blocks is becoming increasingly common. But as a spate of arsons at homes under construction continues and the search for the suspect ramps up, police may have made a break in the case. According to unconfirmed reports, police have deciphered a letter the arson suspect left at the scene of his most recent crime.

Police said that the suspect left a note at the scene of the most recent fire taunting law enforcement officials.

“Decode this message to find out the person who caused this fire,” read the letter, according to police.

Police said that the suspect also left a riddle that had to be solved in order to decode a separate note left at the scene, which allegedely contained the suspect’s full name.

According to an unconfirmed report from the New York Post, police officials have decoded the letter and now have the first and last name of the suspect.

Louis Alperstein a Forest Hills resident described a community that is becoming increasingly anxious.

“People gather in little groups throughout the day, looking worriedly at the building and whispreing. That’s how nervous this community is. Who knows if the arsonist wont set fire to an occupied house next. When you’re a lunatic you can start deviating from your plan.”

Police have remained mum on the suspect’s motivations.

“He is either a maniac who gets vicarious pleasure by reading about his acts or he belongs to some crime syndicate,” Alperstein speculated. “Only can only guess but this whole story is rather bizzare and so unusual for this community.”

The latest of the suspected arsons took place the evening before Thanksgiving, when a fire tore through a two-story home under construction at 67th Drive near 108th Street in Forest Hills, according to the FDNY. That fire was the fourth possible arson case over the past month, the FDNY said.

Police said that in all four instances, the suspect entered the sites and “ignited flammable combustibles before fleeing on foot.”

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents, although two of the fires spread to nearby homes.

Anxious residents in Forest Hills referred to the suspect as “a disgruntled nut” and a “real sicko.”

“To leave this crime open would be a festering wound for the community,” Alperstein said. “It would be truly agonizing to know that he hasn’t be caught and hasn’t faced punishment.”

On Friday, NYPD and fire officials released surveillance video of the suspect.

In the video, an individual in a hoodie was seen casually walking around the two-story home minutes before the fire began, according to police officials.

The other fires took place Nov. 8 on 112th Street, Nov. 15 on 69th Road, and Nov. 17 on 66th Avenue, according to police.

All the recent suspicious fires broke out at vacant buildings that were being renovated or under construction.

Police have also offered a cash reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to any arrests.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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