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Cops Ramp Up Halloween Presence on Lower Manhattan's Darkened Streets

LOWER MANHATTAN — Power outages that plunged Lower Manhattan into darkness during the height of Hurricane Sandy Monday night continue to leave streets black  — creating an eerie setting for Halloween and prompting police and residents to take extra precautions to keep the neighborhoods secure.

Sources said the NYPD was emptying police headquarters, pulling the several thousand cops inside 1 Police Plaza back onto the street to help ramp up patrols throughout the battered city.

For those cops working the streets overnight, sources said the NYPD was putting police in fixed positions in close proximity to one another so that residents know a cop is always nearby.

The NYPD is also placing high-intensity spotlights at strategic corners to light up as much of the blackened neighborhoods as possible, some of which could remain dark through Saturday, sources said.

The hope is that the heightened presence and some light on the streets will deter any would-be criminals from turning the Downtown blackout into a haven of illegal activity.

But even with that, police cautioned that residents should avoid hitting the streets after dark when possible.

“There are certain times of night that I wouldn’t go wandering around in the dark, and I carry two guns,” said one police official. “You’ve got to use common sense.”

Rich Zander, a father of two in the East Village, started trick or treating at 3:45 p.m. so he and his sons, both wearing skeleton masks, could collect candy well before the sun went down.

"When it's starting to get dark, we'll start making our way back home," said Zander, who lives on East Fourth Street between Avenue B and C.

Jimmy Solomos, co-owner of Percy’s Tavern on East 13th Street and Avenue A, said the bar was not allowing anyone to wear masks inside the bar on Wednesday to keep things safe. He added that cops from the 9th Precinct came by every hour to check on them.

Two transit cops standing nearby at East 14th Street and Avenue B said they had been stationed in the neighborhood since 7 a.m. and had been tasked with keeping the peace and preventing looting.

Power stayed out at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, which houses some 25,000 residents, after an explosion at the ConEd substation on East 14th Street and the FDR Monday night.

Some buildings have a battery backup system that allows residents to continue unlocking their front entrances with key cards, City Councilman Dan Garodnick, a Stuy Town resident, said in a statement sent out to tenants.

But that backup system is not working in buildings that sustained flooding in their basements, and Garodnick said the residents of those buildings have had to prop open their front entrance doors in order to get in and out.

A security guard working in the complexes said she had been stationed outside one of the residential towers to check IDs and keep strangers out of the building.

The guard, who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the press, said that all security personnel at the complexes had been called in to work on Wednesday to patrol the area and watch out for looters.

Richard Condon, 53, lives in Stuy Town and said that the high volume of cars in the area coupled with a lack of functioning signals made the streets particularly treacherous. He said he’s taken to carrying a flashlight with him and waving it at intersections so cars won’t hit him.

But so far, he hasn’t worried about crime.

"I'll say this, I haven't felt like I've had to put my guard up," Condon said. “Everybody's out on the street."

Maura Sircus, a costume designer who has lived in the East Village for about 25 years, said the camaraderie in the neighborhood has kept her feeling safe despite the lack of power.

"I probably wouldn't go walking around on the streets at night, but no, I'm not scared," Sircus said. "There's a heavy police presence down here."

“I’ve felt more of a sense of community,” she added. “We were all out together Monday night watching the river come up the street.”