By Courtney Gousman
Berkeley, MO (KSDK) - Tornadoes ripped through parts of North St. Louis County two months ago Wednesday, forcing many residents out of their homes. That has opened the door for looters in the midst of families working to put their homes back together in Berkeley.
Both residents and police in Berkeley say it's a crime of opportunity, with criminals taking what they can from residents who are trying to rebuild.
As if Tonya Brown and her family haven't already been through enough. Two months ago, their home sustained so much tornado damage they were forced out. Contractors have been working to rebuild the place, but the wife and mother say over the past week there have been setbacks.
"Someone broke in again, stole some power tools and some more jewelry, and last night they came back and stole all the copper piping from the water heater, washer, dryer," said Berkeley resident Tonya Brown.
Brown says the two break-ins this week are keeping her family from returning home.
"We were supposed to get back in this week however that's going to be delayed because of the pipe stealing," she said.
Surrounding Brown's place are storm debris and boarded-up homes.
"It's houses that are vacant. No one's here to actually watch and see what's going on," Brown said.
Brown says another issue that makes it easy for criminals to take advantage of this area is the fact that two months later, some of the street lights are still out.
"If the street light is not working, that just further capes what they're trying to do," said Chief Frank McCall Jr. of the Berkeley Police Department.
Chief McCall says the Browns aren't the only victims. A number of burglaries have been reported in these tornado damaged neighborhoods, since the nice weather. So patrols have been stepped-up.
"These people are already victims. They're trying to rebuild their homes to move back there. To have someone come and take advantage of them again is just not acceptable."
NewsChannel 5 contacted Ameren officials, who say they're aware of the broken street lights in the area, but have not gotten around to fixing all of them. Ameren representatives say they will be fixed sometime Thursday.
As for the Brown family, with these setbacks, they're not sure when they'll actually be able to get back into their home.