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South Shore residents complain of looting

A message left on a fence of a

A message left on a fence of a home in Freeport eight days after superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 6, 2012) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Amy Cahill and her family fled from their Mastic Beach home on the eve of superstorm Sandy only to return the next day and find their flooded house ransacked.

"My daughter goes into her room and says, 'Mom, where is my TV?' " said Cahill, 35, whose home was burglarized sometime during the three days the family was gone.

"They had to have come in at high tide sometime," said Cahill, who added that the intruders must have noticed the cards on the walls for her 2-year-old son, Johnathon, who has stage 4 liver cancer.

"How could they look at that and hit a family so hard when they are so down and take the little that we have?" she said.

South Shore residents, in particular, in both counties have reported incidents of burglaries and thefts as they recover from the storm.

One camp store in Huntington Station was burglarized the day after the storm, police said, and the four burglars made off with eight rifles.

Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said "looters" have been preying on that village, especially at night.

"Whatever you left as you went out the door before the storm, the scrappers are throwing in their trucks," Biondi said.

Suffolk Seventh precinct commanding officer William Neubauer said there have been a total of four burglaries since the storm: one commercial burglary and three residential burglaries, including Cahill's.

Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale said police are aware of just one instance of looting at a Dunkin' Donuts around the time of the storm.

"Since that time there have been zero -- zero -- incidents of looting," Dale said.

Nassau police spokesman Kenneth Lack said police have seen a small uptick in the theft or attempted theft of generators and gas. Both Nassau and Suffolk police report that overall, crime for the week surrounding the storm is down from last year.

But according to a source familiar with the situation, the overnight hours have been "real busy" in Nassau's South Shore communities since Sandy hit. Overnight Sunday into the Monday of the storm, there were three burglaries in the "pitch black" of communities without power -- Bellmore, Merrick and Roosevelt, said the source, who described the stealing of generators as "rampant."

Dale said Nassau police have what they call "a security blanket" made up of county and state police and the Army National Guard aimed at the South Shore. During the day, he said it's composed roughly of 100 officers. At night, that rises to 150 to 175 officers.

Residents of Suffolk's South Shore have also reported stealing in the days following Sandy.

Some of the areas hardest hit by the storm were in the First Precinct, including Babylon, Lindenhurst and Copiague. That precinct's commanding officer, Gerard Gigante, said there was a spike in crime by what he called opportunistic people during the first two nights after Sandy.

"Most of the increase was in the Wyandanch area," he said adding that there were residential burglaries in areas with no power. "The flooded out areas did not have a spike."

Gigante said he has since stepped up patrols in Wyandanch, Copiague, Lindenhurst, West Babylon, Babylon and Deer Park with 18 state police officers assisting.

On Friday, Suffolk police announced they would be enforcing a curfew from dusk until dawn in areas south of Montauk Highway in Babylon Village, Lindenhurst and Copiague.

The curfew was initially put in place to deter the curious but Gigante said "we also found out that scrappers were coming through and taking whatever they could find."

But, he said, "We've had none of those smash and grab broken front windows like you've seen where there is looting out of state."

Lawrence Mayor Marty Oliner said there had been a curfew imposed this week in the village from midnight to 5 a.m. to deter crime and he has hired a crew of private security officers to patrol at night. He said so far there had been no storm-related burglaries.

"I know there is a lot of fear and I don't want anyone to panic and nobody should feel like they should arm themselves and create dangerous sitations," he said, adding police recieved several calls of prowlers who turnedout to be owners checking in on their homes.

The Cahills, a family of five and two dogs, said they keep the burglary in perspective.

"It will be replaced in time," Amy Cahill said of what was taken. "You could take my house, you could take anything from me, give me a cardboard box and if you tell me my son is OK, I'm happy with that."

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