Wall Street Journal: A Grim Fear Engulfs Areas Lacking Light
Wall Street Journal — By PERVAIZ SHALLWANI And ANDREW GROSSMAN
With floodlights, police patrols and power outlets, authorities in and around New York sought to deter looters and calm nerves in swaths of the region where the lights remained off.
In many places, they succeeded, catching would-be looters and reassuring residents. In others, they failed.
At least 41 people have been arrested in Brooklyn and Queens on looting charges, police said. Some were caught taking food, while others are accused of stealing items such as alcohol and electronics.
In Coney Island, Ammar Al-Tereb, the 27-year-old manager at Neptune Stationary, spent Thursday morning watching over his convenience store and surveying the damage. Looters trashed the store Tuesday morning and left with cash, a safe, beer and more than two dozen reams of lottery tickets, among other items. "They take everything from here," he said, estimating the damage at $80,000. "If they take stuff, it's fine. But they take the stuff and they broke a lot of things."
Neptune was one of several businesses looted along Neptune and Mermaid avenues, which were immersed in water by the storm and have been without power ever since. On Wednesday, police arrested 18 people in a local Key Food, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
In response, police increased patrols on Thursday. Police stood at most street corners in the flood-ravaged neighborhood.
There was looting at a Rockaway Beach shoe store Tuesday, witnesses said, but by Thursday, residents stood in the parking lot and crowded around a police floodlight, charging their cellphones in its generator. Three police vans and a National Guard truck parked a block away.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday afternoon there had been no murders in the city since the onset of the storm. Police didn't release statistics for other kinds of incidents.
Police in Long Island also increased patrols in Nassau and Suffolk County neighborhoods without power. "They seem to be on top of it," said local Rep. Peter King, who has been meeting with law-enforcement officials. Mr. King said police had a long list of problems to deal with besides looting, such as conflicts at fast-emptying gas stations.
Still, fear and rumors swirled in darkened neighborhoods, including lower Manhattan. Residents worried about thieves posing as officials to get into apartments complexes. Lawmakers voiced concern about those preying on vulnerable, disaster-stricken homeowners.
Irma Batista and Yvonne D'Aguilar, residents of the Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, said security was their biggest concern. Power hasn't been restored in the development, which lies in an evacuation zone.
"There's just strange people roaming around in the buildings in the dark," said Ms. Batista, 75 years old, who has lived at Jacob Riis for 55 years. Ms. D'Aguilar, 61, added: "People's priorities are really messed up."