Watch CBS News

With Tornado-Damaged Houses Left Behind, Volunteers Step In To Keep Burglars Away

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CBS) -- Residents in areas damaged by tornadoes this past Sunday night said they appreciate the help, but they wonder if everyone is really there to do good.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Tuesday night, volunteers are stepping up to protect property in Naperville.

Neighbors have already been warned about contract scammers coming into neighborhoods. But burglary is also a concern – as some residents are leaving their partially-damaged homes for the night with their belongings still inside.

And on Tuesday night, people were out on residential blocks in safety vests, working to make sure everything was safe and secure.

No doubt, neighbors in Naperville are no doubt grateful for the mutual cleanup efforts that have been under way. Many have pitched in and grabbed rakes and offered water, as contractors do the major work like roof repairs.

"It does bring out the best in a lot of people," said Kat Steffeter. "I mean, the neighbors have been so generous and so giving in so many ways."

But since the EF-3 tornado swept through the community, those fortunate enough to remain in their homes have noticed plenty of people walking around whom they don't recognize.

"There's been a lot of strangers around, and it is kind of scary when you don't know everyone and there's this big bustle of activity," Steffeter said.

There is a concern that not everyone is just looking at the damage – and some could be looking for an opportunity to steal.

"Those people are out there," said Kat Steffeter's mother, Janet Steffeter.

The Steffeters' neighbors raised that exact worry before leaving their damaged home behind.

"They needed to leave, but they didn't want to leave behind an empty house in case somebody came by and tried to break in," Kat Steffeter said.

Yet there are neighbors walking with safety vests.

"Our thing is if we see something suspicious, we call it in," said John Rottersman of the Naperville Community Radio Watch.

Citizen volunteers with the Naperville Community Radio Watch were on scene overnight providing additional eyes for police when the sun set.

"You know, we're always worried about looters in a situation like this, and to be able to be out here in our vests and be invisible – visibility is the important thing," Rottersman said.

While most people think of the community stepping up by chopping trees, these volunteers are offering peace of mind overnight.

"It's a really good thing to be doing," Rottersman said.

"It's a pretty scary thing to go through what everyone is going through. There's been a lot of condemned houses. People aren't home anymore," said Janet Steffete. "and it's nice to know somebody is watching out for us."

A shift was working from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and then another shift will 1 a.m. until around 6 or 7 a.m. They are there to make sure that during the overnight hours, people do not pull down boards and walk into any homes.

The community radio watch has an average of 20 volunteers. Naperville police said they are grateful for the patrols, but the volunteers are being stretched thin.

Thus, they are asking more volunteers to join. For more information, go to this link.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.