Councilman Proposes Legislation To Ward Off Looters In Storm Ravaged Areas
Hoping to discourage would-be criminals from striking in storm-damaged areas, a Staten Island city councilman is proposing a monetary fine in addition to criminal penalties to those who try to exploit storm victims. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
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By day, Center Place in New Dorp is a hub of activity -- contractors work to rebuild homes and sanitation trucks clear out never-ending piles of debris.
But at night it's a different story.
The quiet beach-side street is all but deserted at nightfall and early in the morning. It's those hours that have resident David Chen concerned.
"I'm sitting in my car, waiting for my contractor to come and I see the men coming through," Chen said. "They just looking for something -- peeking at the houses one by one. I don't know what they're doing, but I know they're looking for something.
Chen says he's afraid of looters since his badly damaged home is nearly fully renovated and stocked with new appliances.
The NYPD doesn't have specific numbers about how many Sandy-related crimes have been committed so far, in just the first seven days after the storm, the burglary rate city-wide went up 7 percent.
Residents say looting is still an issue.
"Some of the houses that were destroyed got broken into," resident Jerry McClenin said. "Some stuff was stolen and stuff like that."
City Councilman James Oddo is proposing a bill that would add up to a $50,000 penalty in addition to criminal charges to anyone who commits acts like looting or impersonation during a mandatory evacuation period.
That would include the time after a storm when residents are not allowed to return to their homes.
"For them to be victimized a second time by a person in this community," Oddo said, "that's heartbreaking."
Residents note there has been an increased police presence in storm-ravaged areas, especially at night.
But while they say they're not sure the additional penalties would actually deter a criminal from looting, they do welcome the idea.
"You gotta hope. Keep an eye out," McClenin said. "Hopefully the police are watching."
The bill was first introduced after tropical storm Irene, but never made it to a vote.
Oddo said he hopes it will come to a vote soon.