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Looters Target Homes Under Repair After Superstorm Sandy

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By Syma Chowdhry

TOMS RIVER, N.J., (CBS) — Sounds like this give shore residents hope that their homes will be repaired and rebuilt by the summer season after Superstorm Sandy ripped through here.

But this sound could mean a different type of destruction: thieves targeting houses for scrap metal.

Toms River Police say a house on Boatmans Road and a home on South Lagoon Drive were targets for those looking to steal scrap metal.

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About $10,000 worth was taken from a garage on Boatmans Road Monday, and about 100 feet of copper was taken from South Lagoon Drive.

Police arrested 22-year-old Eric Scharff in connection with both incidents.

They recovered and returned the stolen materials to the owners.

“As you bring more materials on site, the potential for more victims to occur increases. So we are trying to reduce that opportunity,” said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy.

Toms River isn’t the only place getting hit.

Eyewitness News talked to Lacey Police Chief David Paprota and he tells us there have been a handful of instances of thieves stripping down homes.

“By all accounts, it looks like normal contractors,” said Paprota.

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The latest theft was discovered Monday at a home on Maui Drive where $1,000 worth of pipes, fixtures and sinks were taken.

“Going through someone’s garbage looking for scrap metal has evolved to actual left,” said Paprota.

Neighbors in the Sandy-stricken area say dealing with the storm and its aftermath is bad enough, let alone theft, but they aren’t surprised.

“That’s life I guess. Most people will steal anything so what can you do?,” said neighbor Alfred Lassila.

“Usually there is trouble anywhere, it’s just stupid stuff they are taking,” said neighbor Ed Skok.

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Neighborhoods like this look like ghost towns and that’s what officials say is the biggest issue because thieves target these areas. But police say the best way to stop them is by repopulating these homes as soon as possible.

“When people get back in, they are watching out for their neighbors. That’s the best protection we can offer,” said Mastronardy.

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