The torching of three luxury cars on Ocean Parkway, which many saw as an anti-Semitic attack, may have instead been an elaborate insurance fraud scheme — yet skeptical Midwood residents don’t believe the police should dismiss the initial hate crime theory.
Someone scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti on benches between Avenues I and J before setting the vehicles on fire on Nov. 11 — on the same week Brooklyn marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Hitler’s infamous blitzkrieg on Jews — but cops now believe that someone torched the vehicles to cash in on their insurance policy.
”We’re investigating the possibility that some of the evidence was manufactured to make this look like a bias crime,” an NYPD source told The Daily News.
But residents who live near the torching site — where the asphalt is still warped, burned, pitted, and embedded with metal bits from the exploding cars — were incredulous when confronted by the police’s new theory.
“I don’t know [that the new allegations] are true,” said one woman who wished not to give her name.
Police believe that the torching wasn’t an act of hate because the person responsible went to great lengths to cover up their tracks — something not common in bias attacks. It was also learned that the owner of one of the torched cars didn’t live in the neighborhood, raising questions as to why the car was in Midwood the night the fire was set.
Yet some aren’t ready to sign onto the NYPD’s theory.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Borough Park), hasn’t pulled the $56,000 reward he put up for information leading to the arsonist’s whereabouts. A few days after the fires were set, Hikind and several other Brooklyn politicians marched to denounce what they said was an anti-Semitic attack.
“We are more confused today than ever before,” said Hikind, “Whether it’s bias or not — is a very serious crime. When was the last time three cars were blown up in our community?”
Others noted that the police’s insurance fraud theory will be difficult to prove — so the cops may never know what happened.
“Until an arrest is made, nothing is credible,” one resident said. “But let’s say it is a guy who did insurance fraud. Unless the guy admits to it, insurance fraud would be very hard to prove. You can’t just lock up a guy who got his car burnt with swastikas.”
The NYPD says it’s still investigating the arson, but wouldn’t say if the crime is still being investigated as a hate crime.
“It was investigated as a possible bias,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne explained. “But we have not foreclosed on other motives.”
Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.