After Hurricane Irene, the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office received reports of scavengers digging through debris and taking things that didn’t belong to them.
They arrested people who were allegedly breaking into homes in Middleburgh and stealing things.
These incidents aside, there hasn’t been a notable uptick in flood-related crime, according to Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond. The department has implemented round-the-clock foot patrols in the village of Schoharie, where many homes remain empty, to keep criminals at bay.
At the end of November, the foot patrols will end because money is tight, Desmond said.
“We’ve been glad to be able to help out,” Desmond said, noting the deputies have walked the streets in some fairly “adverse conditions.”
Residents said they appreciated the foot patrols, but they remain anxious about crime, especially now that some residents have begun moving back.
“There’s a concern that people have been scavenging,” said Sarah Goodrich, who coordinates volunteers at Schoharie Reformed Church.
Keith Graham, who heads the Rural Area Recovery Effort, which is focused on rebuilding the southern part of Schoharie County, agreed. One worry, he said, is that thieves will steal copper pipes out of homes.
One resident said she had been warned about providing information to strangers who might be peddling scams or return later to steal things.
Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry, whose home was severely damaged in the flood, said some expressed concerns about looters in the flood’s aftermath, but he hasn’t heard any reports of “anything like that.”
“I’ve not seen any evidence [of people] going into my house,” he said. “and it’s unlocked.”
After the flood, the sheriff’s office received a number of calls from “irate residents” complaining about onlookers descending upon their neighborhoods to take pictures and gawk, Desmond said.
“It was rude,” Desmond said. “It was not respectful. People felt violated.”