Fear of looting grips 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 through neighborhoods 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 today’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 at storm-damaged homes. Burglaries were up 6 percent citywide compared to the same period last year, but overall crime was down 27 percent, police said.
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 the oven on 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 were scattered like trash.
More than 1 million people remained without power Tuesday.
“I know it’s been a long, long eight days,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.