Schumer Urges National Grid to Provide 24-hour Advanced Phone Notification in Response to Burglars Posing as Workers

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Also Urges National Grid To Educate All Nassau County Customers About How to Identify a Real Employee Versus an Imposter – Including Badges, Uniforms & ...

Nassau County, NY - July 1, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on National Grid to begin providing 24-hour advanced phone or mail notification to Long Island customers ahead of any in-home visit by a technician, like a meter reading. He said that this improved alert should be done first in Syosset, Herricks, Westbury and the surrounding communities, where a new burglary pattern has emerged involving two men that pose as National Grid utility workers to gain access to an individual’s homes and burglarize them. So far, three burglaries targeting elderly individuals have taken place. Schumer then said that this notification policy should be expanded for all Long Island customers as a general practice in the future and should include the name of the expected technician and approximate appointment time. In addition to providing clear notification about in-home visits, Schumer is also pushing National Grid to do quick outreach and educate Long Island customers in the areas of these burglaries about how to identify a real employee  – that has a badge, proper uniform and a National Grid truck – versus an imposter.
 
“The recent burglaries in Nassau County communities like Syosset, Herricks and Westbury demonstrate that more must be done by National Grid to ensure homeowners know exactly who to expect at their door for an in-home technician visit, and at what time. National Grid is certainly not to blame for these ‘deception burglaries’, but it’s critical for the safety of the company’s customers – and their reputation – that there is a clear, 24-hour advanced notice in writing or on the phone, for when National Grid plans to do an in-home meter reading or any other visit. I am also urging National Grid to pay special attention to the communities where this pattern has emerged and educate customers how to identify a real employee  - with their badge, uniform and truck – from an imposter. We set date and time appointments with our cable providers, repairmen and plumbers and the same should go for utility workers like National Grid in order to protect stay-at-home parents, senior citizens and others,” said Schumer.
 
Schumer was joined by senior citizens, concerned parents, representatives of the Manhasset Hills Civic Association and Councilman Peter Zuckerman.
 
Earlier this month, two men posed as National Grid utility workers and burglarized the homes of elderly individuals in Nassau County. The robberies took place in Syosset, Herricks and Westbury. According to media reports, the burglars gain access to the home by telling residents that they must check the water for a gas leak.  Once inside the house, one suspect has distracted the homeowner, while the other suspect steals items, like jewelry and cash, from the home. Schumer said this was not the first time “deception burglaries” have occurred in the area. In 2012, police identified a rash of nine burglaries in Nassau where two women dressed as utility workers and distracted homeowners while stealing jewelry and cash. And in 2013, the police took down a band of criminals dressed as National Grid employees for a string of deception burglaries in Staten Island, also targeting seniors.
 
Currently, utilities are only required to send a written letter to a customer if they have not been able to obtain a reading of the meter after six months. Meter reading dates are shown on a customer’s bill, however, they are subject to change, it does not list the time or expected name of technician. In addition, there are other reasons a National Grid technician may need to come to the home, like a gas leak, and the utility should provide as much notice as possible for such emergency situations, and include the same level of detail.
 
In light of the recent burglaries, Schumer today urged National Grid to immediately begin providing written notifications or phone calls 24-hours in advance of an in-home meter readings to customers in and around the Nassau County communities where this pattern has emerged. Notifications should provide a window of time for the appointment and the name of the expected technician. Schumer is also urging National Grid to take immediate steps to warn local people of this pattern and to educate them of their standard operating procedures when visiting a home for in-meter readings or other visits. Schumer said that National Grid should make clear that they will soon be providing notifications for in-home meter readings. National Grid should also make clear that their workers drive National Grid vehicles and homeowners should check to see if it is parked outside the home to confirm that the employee is, in fact, a utility worker. They should also explain that all utility workers wear uniforms and carry National Grid IDs.
 
Schumer said that after the more immediate concern is addressed regarding these burglaries, he is urging National Grid to establish this notification process as a general practice for all customers.
 
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
Mr. Ken Daly
President
National Grid New York
Dear Mr. Daly,
 
I write to express my concern about reports of a series of burglaries in Nassau County, New York in which individuals entered the homes of senior citizens and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of valuables or cash after falsely identifying themselves as National Grid workers. In each case, individuals claiming to be National Grid employees indicated that they needed to read an indoor meter or inspect the residents’ water for a gas leak. These so called “deception burglaries”, often targeting senior citizens, have been a recurring problem with National Grid customers for the past two years. Last week alone, there were three of these deception burglaries involving senior citizens in Nassau County. In order to help prevent this from happening again in the region, I ask that National Grid consider developing procedures to improve communication with residents ahead of indoor meter readings or other circumstances that would require a National Grid employee to enter a customer’s home. 
 
As you are aware, the first deception burglary took place in Syosset where an 85 year old woman had jewelry taken after a man knocked on the victim’s door and identified himself as a National Grid worker investigating a gas explosion. Two other deception burglaries took place in Herricks and Westbury, where a 79 year old woman had jewelry taken and a 66 year old man had cash stolen. Unfortunately, deception burglaries are not isolated incidents for National Grid Customers and there have been many instances of similar crimes in the region over the past two years. In 2012, police identified a rash of nine burglaries in Nassau County where two women dressed as utility workers distracted homeowners while stealing jewelry and cash. In 2013, police took down a band of criminals dressed as National Grid employees for a string of deception burglaries on Staten Island that was also targeted at senior citizens. While I appreciate that National Grid has recently taken some measures to mitigate the risk of these kinds of incidents, such as issuing workers newer, more identifiable uniforms and redesigning the exterior of workers’ trucks; deception burglaries continue to occur.
 
As a response to this recent string of burglaries, I am urging that you consider new procedures to mitigate the risk of future incidents. First, I ask that you alert all customers in Nassau County of this burglary pattern. Second, I urge that you provide advance notifications of meter readings by National Grid employees for those customers with indoor gas meters which require entry into the home. In that notification, it should made clear to the customer the kind of vehicle the National Grid employee will be traveling in, the kind of uniform and ID the employee will have on, a window of time in which the employee may arrive and to the extent possible, the name of the employee that will be tending to the customer. I strongly believe that these notifications should be made 24 hours in advance and should be done through a letter or a phone call, so that access to newer technologies does not pose a disadvantage to senior citizens, the population that is most vulnerable and most impacted by deception burglaries.  It is my understanding that National Grid is in the process of working with its customers to relocate indoor gas meters outdoors. As such, establishing this notification process for in home meter readings should not represent a burdensome commitment for National Grid if it is already transitioning to outdoor gas meters.
 
These measures will provide safeguards against future deception burglaries and ensure that our senior citizens, and others, will be adequately prepared with the information necessary to protect their home from theft. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
 
Sincerely,
Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator 
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