Fear of looting grips NYC as new storm threatens

By TOM HAYS and COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press Published: November 7, 2012
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NEW YORK — Richard Chan prowled around his cold, dark Staten Island home with knives and a sword to protect it from thieves, standing his ground as another East Coast storm threatened and police went door-to-door with loudspeakers warning people to get out.


“I still have some valuables. I just can't leave it,” he said Tuesday. “I just don't want to lose my stuff to some dirtbag.”

While city officials strongly encouraged storm-ravaged communities to seek higher ground before Wednesday's nor'easter, Chan was among a group who adamantly refused to leave, choosing to stick close to the belongings they have left.

Since the superstorm made landfall more than a week ago, killing 40 people in the city, more than 100 in 10 states and leaving millions without power, police said overall crime has actually gone down, not up. There are few reports of looting storm-damaged homes.

But Alex Ocasio wasn't convinced. The nursing home worker planned to ride out the latest storm in his first-floor Rockaway apartment — even after seeing cars float by his front door during Sandy.

As the water receded, men dressed in dark clothes broke down the door and were surprised to find him and other residents inside. “They tried to say they were rescue workers, then took off,” he said.

He put up a handmade sign — “Have gun. Will shoot U” — outside his apartment and started using a bed frame to barricade the door. He has gas, so he keeps on the oven and boils water to stay warm at night. “It gets a little humid, but it's not bad,” he said. “I'm staying. Nothing can be worse than what happened last week.”

In the Rockaways, one of the worst-hit areas, nightfall brings with it fears of looting, burglaries — even armed robberies. The idyllic seaside boardwalk was in ruins, streets were covered with sand and cars scattered like trash.

“You can't go there after dark anymore,” said 57-year-old construction worker William Gavin, pointing to a battered, lower-income section of his beachfront community. “It's a good way to get a gun pulled on you.”

Earlier this week, a retired police officer fired warning shots at someone trying to break into her home in the middle of the night, said Sean Kavanagh.

“I don't blame her,” said Kavanagh, also a retired officer. “I would have done the same.”

Kavanagh says he's staying home, in part to protect it. “I leave and anything can happen,” he said. “It's open season.”

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