MIDLAND BEACH — While residents are wading through waist-high water to recover what is left of their houses and belongings, they are faced with a new worry — the heartless looting of their devastated homes.
"They took everything," said Margaret Kehoe, 22, who evacuated Monday night and noticed that home had been wiped out. "My TVs, my safety deposit box.
"It's sickening," Kehoe, who has a 2-year-old child and is nine months pregnant. "You see people have nothing, and this is what you do?"
Across the whole borough, there have been nearly 13 arrests for people in connection for looting as of Thursday, according to the Richmond County District Attorneys Office.
“People are looting the neighborhood, taking whatever they can,” said Diana Timofeyeva, 25, who chose staying in her frigid house rather than leave her remaining belongings behind. “It’s better to sleep in the cold than wake up and have nothing left.”
One local, who asked that her name not be used, said the looting started almost immediately after the storm passed.
“We were afraid to leave our belongings as early as Tuesday morning,” she said.
Lenny Nicholas, 48, helped organize an unofficial neighborhood watch to keep their property safe when he noticed a group of kids that looked like they were casing the neighborhood.
“We took shifts watching the block,” he said. “Everyone is being great.”
Nicholas said the waters from Hurricane Sandy rose so quickly there was no time to grab valuables.
“You didn’t even have enough time to turn around and grab anything,” he said.
Among the arrested were Joseph Martino, 38, who was captured in front of a Prince's Bay street for allegedly stealing a generator from a nearby business. He told cops he bought the generator for $1,000 from a person outside of a Home Depot and they brought it to his home, court records said.
"I got it from a guy outside Home Depot," court records said. "I paid him $1,000. He brought it to my house."
The generator was actually valued at about $3,000. Martino was arraigned Wednesday and charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the third, fourth and fifth degree, according to court papers.
In Clifton, two men, allegedly armed with several guns and knives, were arrested after attempting to rob 137 Osgood Ave., court papers said. Others were arrested for allegedly attempting to saw locks off of houses and businesses, according to arrest reports.
Many residents are unable to close their doors because of broken locks and water damage, leaving their homes virtually wide open to anyone who wants to come in. And because many locals are staying with friends, families and in shelters, their houses are left unattended.
Branny Guido said that he has stood guard outside his house to ward off any potential looters.
“It’s disgusting,” he said. “Some people are taking advantage of other’s vulnerability and breaking into houses and taking things.”
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head.