Schumer: National Grid advance notice would deter distraction burglaries

Sen. Charles E. Schumer calls on National Grid to begin providing 24-hour advanced phone or mail notification to Long Island customers ahead of any in-home visit by a technician, while surrounded by concerned homeowners from the Manhasset Hills community during a press conference in Manhasset HIlls on Monday, June 30, 2014.

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A rash of so-called distraction burglaries in Nassau by people posing as utility workers has prompted Sen. Charles Schumer to call on National Grid to give Long Island customers 24-hour advance notice of in-home technician visits.

"This is something you could stop rather easily and without great expense," Schumer said after a news conference in New Hyde Park Monday.

"It's a little burden," he said. "But we do it for our repairmen, our deliveryman, our plumber. We have an appointment. . . . Showing up unannounced does not work."

His push follows June burglaries in Syosset, Herricks and Westbury, in which two suspects, disguised as National Grid employees, stole from senior citizens after pretending to check for a gas leak in their homes.

Once inside, Nassau police said, the suspects first stayed with the residents, then went to a different part of the house, took cash, coins and jewelry and fled.

National Grid issued a statement saying the utility shares Schumer's concerns and suggested ways of telling employees from impostors.

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National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young said customers should ask for identification for anyone presenting themselves as the utility's employee. She said employees carry photo badges with the company logo, often wear National Grid hard hats and arrive in vehicles marked "National Grid." Contractors usually have photo identification indicating they work with National Grid, she said.

Customers can also confirm the identification by calling 800-930-5003, while asking the person to wait outside.

"If they are National Grid employees, they'll wait outside," Young said. If customers feel they are in danger, she said, they should call 911.

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Schumer was joined at his news conference by senior citizens and representatives of the Manhasset Hills Civic Association and North Hempstead Councilman Peter Zuckerman.

The senator called for a three-stage plan, beginning with the 24-hour advance notice system by phone or mail in the neighborhoods targeted so far, eventually evolving into a standard-practice program Islandwide.

Schumer said National Grid also providing the technician's name would trip up would-be burglars using fake ID's.

With Ellen Yan

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