NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday issued a renewed push to protect unsuspecting homeowners from crooks posing as utility workers.
As CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported, Schumer specifically urged National Grid to notify Long Island customers 24 hours in advance of any in-house visit by a meter reader or other technician.
“When your home is burglarized, you almost feel violated,” Schumer said.
Surrounded by frightened homeowners, Schumer reviewed a rash of burglaries on Long Island this month, by thieves who allegedly posed as National Grid workers.
The fake utility workers took cash and valuables from elderly residents in three Nassau County communities – Herricks, Syosset, and Westbury – after claiming they had come to check for a gas leak, authorities said.
In one incident, a man, who was wearing a yellow construction hat and vest, told the victim that he was a National Grid employee and that he needed to check the water in the house because of a nearby gas explosion, police said. The victim told police she heard footsteps on the main floor of the house when she was in the basement with the suspect and later discovered her jewelry missing.
In another incident, police said two men claiming to be utility workers made their way into a home, where one of the suspects stole cash and coins from an upstairs room.
Nassau County police have released sketches of two thieves they said posed as National Grid workers.
Area resident Andrea Kahan said she has set her alarm even while at home, and has rethought answering the doorbell.
“Unfortunately, we’re not always careful when we open the door,” Kahan said. “Many times, I open the door, and I think about that I probably I should not.”
Police said the thieves target quiet neighborhoods near major highways to allow for a quick getaway. Westbury resident Robert Small’s next-door neighbor was just robbed, and he said it was not the first time.
“A neighbor of mine just got robbed a year ago, and they stole a bunch of money out of his house,” Small said. “So we’ve just got to be very careful. Hopefully, this will come to an end soon.”
Schumer said it was, in fact, the third year in a row that crooks have used the scheme. Now, he wants the utility to provide the advance notice by phone or mail, along with the name of the employee who is to come.
“When customers are provided with advance notice, it will raise a red flag when someone is showing up unexpectedly,” Schumer said. “And maybe they’ll call the police, and we can catch these burglars.”
He said there is no reason why National Grid should not provide when other utility companies do.
“We set up appointments with our plumbers, we set up appointments with our electricians, we set up appointments with our cable providers, we can set up appointments with our utility workers as well,” Schumer said.
The senator said National Grid should also educate its customers about how to identify its employees, who wear a uniform, a badge and drive a National Grid truck.
A National Grid spokeswoman released a statement reading: “We are reviewing Sen. Schumer’s recommendation, as we are always looking for ways to improve our current processes for the safety and security of our customers.”
National Grid added customers as it is can call the utility to confirm the identity of anyone claiming to be one of its workers.
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