Battling post-Sandy looters at the Jersey shore

April 25, 2013 3:26:43 PM PDT
People who suffered damage during Hurricane Sandy have been targets for crooks at the Jersey shore.

Police in Toms River even caught one thief with thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods.

"The guy forced the garage door and wound up wiping out about $10,000 worth of tools and equipment," said Kris Havanki.

Havanki is one contractor who thinks that the anti-looting patrols by Toms River Police are paying off.

Just after midnight Tuesday, officers arrested 22-year-old Eric Scharff of Toms River and charged him with burglary and theft after he allegedly stole a truckload of tools and equipment from a home in the Silver Beach section of the township.

"All the copper tubing, the existing equipment that was remaining here, anything they could get their hands on, ladders,anything, they loaded in the back of a pickup truck and took off with it," said Havanki.

Police have been running the anti-looting patrols around the clock ever since Hurricane Sandy hit.

"We have areas mapped out for specific patrols and the officers responsible for those areas," said Toms River Police Lieutenant Michael Brosnan. "And we do sporadic spot checks on residents, contractors and vehicles."

"I mean they'll even stop me, and they know my car," said Lynn Risse of Ortley Beach, N.J. "They've got to know me by now!"

Police believe constant patrols have kept looting to a minimum. But with block after block of empty houses, storm-damaged areas can be tempting to criminals.

"The whole ocean block is desolate," said Floyd Moreland of Ortley Beach. "Nobody's living here yet. And so we're targets."

"Everything's wide open, no one's around," said Toms River Police Corporal Louis Sulsenti. "You see the pipes, just walking around. You can see the copper pipes exposed. It's a quick buck."

That's if you don't get caught. The contractor who got his $10,000 worth of equipment back has nothing but praise for police.

"They were on top of this from beginning to end," said Havanki. "And it's nice to know we actually got our stuff back."

Police say they'll keep the anti-looting patrols going because there are hundreds, if not thousands of houses still vulnerable, and thieves who'll try to take advantage of that.