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Sandy Relief Group Gives Out Car Stickers to Prove Residency Amid Looting

By Nicholas Rizzi | June 3, 2013 7:08am
 Beacon of Hope New York has printed car stickers for residents in Hurricane Sandy-damaged neighborhoods in Staten Island to try to cut down on looting and squatting in the neighborhood.
Beacon of Hope New York Car Stickers
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NEW DORP BEACH — Special car stickers identifying residents of Sandy-damaged parts of Staten Island are being issued in an effort to beat looters.

Deidre McGrath, president of Beacon of Hope New York, said that it's been hard for her and her neighbors on Roma Avenue to monitor the block and chase out looters, and they needed a way to make it easier.

"We keep our eyes open, but we're not here 24-7," McGrath said. "We're thinking the cops are patrolling, but how do they know who belongs and who doesn't? They don't really know unless they're the same cop every night, which they're not."

Borrowing an idea from Beacon of Hope in New Orleans used after Hurricane Katrina, McGrath printed car stickers with the group's contact information and the name of the neighborhood where the driver lives.

McGrath ordered 1,000 stickers, which arrived last week. She told the police about the program and asked them to keep an eye out for suspicious cars without the stickers.

"It's not like they're going to stop every car that doesn't have a sticker," she said.

"But if you look suspicious and you're driving up and down the blocks of the neighborhood, [it's] for them to stop you and ask you what you're doing here if you don't have a sticker."

McGrath ordered 250 stickers each for Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach, Oakwood Beach and Ocean Breeze. Drivers can call or email the group to get one, and will need to show a car registration to prove their address.

The group is asking for a $1 donation for the stickers, but will give it for free to residents who can't afford the donation. If they run out, they plan to order more, McGrath said.

Since the storm, damaged neighborhoods have dealt with people looting from relief hubs and houses during rebuilding, and some have reported squatters shacking up in homes that are being rebuilt.

Many residents have been supportive of the idea to help keep tabs on people driving in the neighborhoods, but some told McGrath they worried it will lead to an increase in unnecessary stops near their own homes.

"People were afraid that cops were going to stop and frisk them in their own neighborhood because they didn't want to put a sticker on their car," she said. "All we're looking for is if you are looking suspicious, they should be stopping you anyway, with or without a sticker."

And, McGrath added, stickers can only help the neighborhood cut down on looters.

"The only thing it can do is possibly help," she said. "There's no guarantee, but maybe it will make it easier for people like me who are watching houses."