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Wary and Watchful in Great Neck: Reactions to Breakins!

Although the unsolved home invasions in Great Neck have slacked off in the last few weeks, residents remain vigilant and concerned. Everyone has turned into amateur sleuths with numerous theories about the waxing and waning of the break-ins, where the person is hiding out, and how he could be caught. Some attribute the drop-off to the bitter weather; others believe the attempts are more tuned to some inner workings of a disturbed individual and everyone is disappointed that the massive efforts of the police have led to a dead end. While police have speculated that he may move on to some other community, everyone would feel better if he were caught and off the streets.

Kings Point Civic Association President Marsha Rotman is so concerned that she has scheduled another meeting for community residents with police on Feb. 16, 7:30 at the Kings Point Village Hall.

Kings Point Police Commissioner Jack Miller said, “I have worked in this village for 30 years and know the residents well. It is painful to me to see the anxiety in their eyes...I know life has changed for them.”

The Great Neck Record asked people in the area for comments about the effect the unsolved crimes have had on them, their daily habits and their state of mind. All asked that their names be withheld from this article.

One woman who lives alone has dusted off her uncle’s World War II era shotgun and has it near her bedside. She thinks that the sound of it being cocked may be enough to frighten any intruder away. On top of that, she sleeps with her car keys which can sound an alarm if need be. She says, “It’s creepy coming home late at night now. I used to think nothing of it.”                                 

Another woman in an email writes, “I regret to say that since the break-ins began, I take a more careful look at males who are short and look like they might be Hispanic. I hate doing it. I don’t want to suspect an entire group of people just because one of them has committed a crime. In fact, I don’t think I would recognize the perpetrator from the fuzzy photo I’ve seen, much less be confidant enough in my judgment to actually call the police.

“ I hope they catch him soon, not only to put him away, but also to allow me to go back to being casual in my living style. In the warm months, I usually have my front and back doors unlocked, to go in and out to my garden. If the intruder hasn’t been caught by the spring, I’ll be much more conscientious about locking up-making quick and easy access more difficult. Although the crimes have been committed at night, that could change.”

Some residents who like to save on energy usage and who also like to avoid polluting the night sky have regretfully taken to leaving exterior lights on at night.

Reflecting another point of view one person wrote, “”Don’t have too much to say about the intruder except now we keep our alarm on in the house when we are home. We never did before. The intruder has done the same thing a terrorist does - made us afraid. I think you have to be careful about publicizing how scared and upset people are. Doubt this guy is reading the Record but wouldn’t want to give any other crazy guy the impression that it is really easy to spook us and wouldn’t that be fun for a Saturday night activity. Kind of sticking my head in the sand and hoping he goes away.”

The helicopter surveillance has been a mixed bag for residents. Some find it reassuring to know that such resources are being deployed while others want more solid information about the flights and feel the communication with police is lacking.

One person wrote that while her husband and daughter seem to sleep through everything, “I, however, seem to find myself hearing noises or on a more concrete level … the damned helicopters. Just the other morning we both awakened suddenly at 5:45 a.m., helicopter noise. It jolted me awake. I find that I am dozing off and then kind of keeping vigil until after 4 a.m. reading. I want there to be someone awake in the house, in case there’s a breakin. We’ve got all doors booby trapped, which I realize may not be a good thing. If this guy were to get in via a window, etc … the police would have to break down a door to make a rescue.

“I worry when putting my dog out at night and have to have someone watch my back when I ‘pick up.’ I feel like I am really being terrorized … and most of it is due to the lack of communication between the police and residents. At this stage of the game, I think they totally blew it, If they had actually gone out of their way to inform people living in the area about what was going on, they might have been able to have several sets of vigilant eyes on the lookout. Further … if they have ‘incidents’ where they feel that circling the area is necessary, they might actually find that by making us all aware and well, a little hysterical, they might catch the guy. What do I mean? Well...if the copter is out, they could have a bull horn telling residents that they are looking for someone at the time and give a description.  I cannot think of a better way to have everyone up and looking out their windows to help find him. They seem to prefer to have everyone in the dark so that they don’t disrupt their ‘ongoing investigation.’ I don’t believe that I will turn out the lights and go to sleep until they catch this guy.”

Another person echoed similar feelings about the copters, “It was very nerve-wracking to hear the helicopters circling for two hours last week. I didn’t know if it meant another crime had occurred. I wanted to find out the latest news on the search, but didn’t know where to get that information.

“My feeling is that the police are trying very hard to catch him. They came door to door in my neighborhood distributing flyers, and I’ve seen the electronic sign they put out at the gas station on Steamboat near Wood Road.”

One person summed it up by saying, “What’s really upsetting is that this guy is not after things … like money and jewelry. He’s prowling for a person to hurt. That’s much, much worse.”