Forest Park resident Burhan Syed stands in his garage near his empty bike rack on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, on Elgin Aveue. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

When Forest Park resident Burhan Syed reached out to the Review about his garage getting burglarized earlier this month, he said he didn’t expect to get his belongings back — but he hoped that, by sharing his story with the media, others could learn from his mistakes. 

The burglary happened on Oct. 31 at 7:34 a.m. — Syed knew the exact time because he had a security camera, and it happened so quickly that he didn’t immediately realize what happened. The burglar stole the mountain bike and leaf blowers. While the image was clear enough to get the suspect’s face, Syed didn’t realize until he filed the police report that he didn’t have the serial numbers for any of the stolen items.

Since then, he upgraded the security and made sure he had every serial number of every item on hand. He urged other residents to invest in alarm systems, even if it’s something cheap, and try to get to know each other. In the end, Syed reflected, there is only so much anyone can control, and having your neighbors look out for you goes a long way.

Syed moved to Forest Park in September 2021 after taking a job in Chicago. He didn’t think he would experience the sense of community and camaraderie he found in the village anywhere else. Since then, he has tried to be involved in the community, attending village council meetings and holding movie nights and parties on the 300 block of Elgin Avenue. On Oct. 28, Syed held a Halloween party attended by 20-30 people.

On Halloween morning, he woke up, went downstairs and heard his dogs barking. Syed thought they were simply excited to see him. A few minutes later, he saw that the garage door was open — but even then he thought he forgot to close it the night before. It wasn’t until he checked the security logs that he realized what happened.

The burglar took a mountain bike, two leaf blowers, three leaf blower batters and three battery chargers. Syed estimated they were collectively worth at least $1,400. 

When he went to report the incident to the police, he thought he was prepared. He brought in the video footage and got the stills with the burglar’s face. 

“The mistake I made is that I didn’t have the serial numbers for everything,” Syed said, reflecting that it simply didn’t occur to him until the police officer asked him about it.

“I thought I had all my bases covered,” he reflected. “I really thought to myself, ‘there’s nothing valuable in the garage,’ but there was.”

In addition to jotting down the numbers, he has since photographed every single potentially valuable item and put in door sensors that will immediately alert him if someone tries to open any door. While the sensors may not fit everybody’s budget, Syed said, taking the photos with a phone is a simple step — and so is getting “even the cheapest alarm system.” Syed also urged people to “get to know their neighbors.”

“I know what I can control,” he said. “I’ve taken photos of everything. All it took was a little bit of time.”

While Syed doesn’t hold out hope that he will ever get his property back, he said that, if the burglar is caught, he can press charges.

“Not out of revenge,” he said. “There are a lot of seniors who live on my street. [The thought of them getting burglarized], that’s what scares me.”

Syed said that, while the burglary left his wife feeling “very violated” and distrustful, it hasn’t affected the way he feels about the community. And so far, his faith has been justified — when he accidently left a garage door open earlier this week, he got a text from his neighbor a few minutes later. 

“I still trust deeply in people,” Syed said. “I still love living here. The best we can do for Forest Park is get to know each other, and respect each other.”