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More Police Resources Being Sent To Forest Hills In Search For Suspected Arsonist

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD is sending more resources to Forest Hills, Queens to root out a suspected arsonist who authorities believe struck for a seventh time over the weekend.

Police patrols, both uniformed and plainclothes, have increased in the neighborhood and a new unit designed for immediate response will also be on hand, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

The latest fire broke out just after midnight Sunday at a home that was under construction on 69th Road near the Grand Central Parkway.

"Purposely set, with materials found at the scene, we believe," Robert Boyce, NYPD Chief of Detectives, said.

This was the second time someone set the home on fire and surrounding homes were also damaged by the blaze, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported. The first incident occurred on Nov. 15.

Police had released a photo of a man on a motorcycle after witnesses said they saw him speed away from the scene seconds after the fire started, but police said Monday he is no longer considered a person of interest in the case.

Forest Hills Arson Person of Interest
Police want to question this man in connection with a series of arson fires in Forest Hills, Queens. (credit: NYPD)

Police sources told CBS2 that several persons of interest have been identified. One is a person who police said was seen on surveillance video from a fire back on Nov. 25.

"We believe we came up with a very good subject with a hood outside one of the fires walking by," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

Seven sites in the neighborhood, all within walking distance from one another, have been intentionally set on fire since October, investigators said.

"I'm very, very concerned about that," said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Police told CBS2 someone torched five homes under construction along with an empty building and a storage facility. Investigators say all of the crimes are linked.

According to investigators, Sunday's fire was slighting different from the other arsons.

"This past Sunday was a little bit out of the pattern that we saw in the fact that most of these arsons before were roughly started at 6:30 at night until about 10:30 at night," Boys said. "This is one o'clock in the morning."

One man told 1010 WINS that "everyone who's suffered with these fires, they were members of the Bukharian Jewish community."

Leaders of that community want police to find out if the suspect is inspired by hatred or is against what is known locally as the Bukharian building boom of tearing down small homes and building much bigger ones, 1010 WINS' John Montone reported.

But Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said police are not looking at the fires as a hate crime. According to Bratton, the city has stepped up patrols around the area, and are incorporating more routine use of license plate readers to identify potentially suspicious vehicles.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477), visit or text tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

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