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November 7, 2012

Fear of looting grips NYC after storm

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, 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.

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.

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.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it wasn’t wise to stay put: “I think your life is more important than property.”

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