No, Looters Did Not Ravage New York During the Hurricane
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Despite pre-storm fears about roving gangs of bandits terrorizing a crippled city, the post-storm reality of crime in New York City is very... New York. The Wall Street Journal reports that there have been 13 arrests for various minor offenses, including burglary, trespass, and "mischief" since the hurricane blew through on Monday night. None of the crimes were violent and there have beenno solidly confirmed reports of large disruptions or other violent crimes.
That doesn't mean the city is completely crime-free. A handful of police precincts had to be evacuated due to the flooding and there were sporadic incidents of looting. Police were apparently helpless to stop a local laundromat from being overrun on Coney Island and a nearby pharmacy was also cleaned out of most of its prescription drugs. But judging by the pictures thieves appear to have left most of the other goods behind. That precinct, the 60th, was one of the hardest hits until police regrouped and took back their turf.
But when you consider the level of theft crimes on an average day in New York City (when police stop-and-frisk hundreds of "suspicious" persons every single day), the number of incidents sounds pretty ordinary. Especially compared to incidents like the notorious 1977 "Bronx is Burning"blackout, when hundreds of New York business were burned and pillaged. Or even two days ago, when San Francisco saw torched cars and smashed buses in celebration of a measly World Series victory. A single fistfight between two neighbors is hardly unheard of in Brooklyn and given the tension and frayed nerves in high rises without electricity, it's miracle there weren't more riots. Or at least something worse than people trying to open broken arcade games on the Jersey Shore
Before Sandy even arrived, some conservative websites tried to stoke fears of wild gangs coordinating their destructive sprees on Twitter — who turned out to mostly be frat boys and high schoolers far away from the storm making dumb jokes — as if everything on the internet should be taken at face value and assumed to be part of a larger conspiracy.
Yet, even the less hysterical fears have failed to materialize. It certainly helped that everyone, good and bad, was kept off the streets by the weather and police have made a concerted effort to make their presence known in every neighborhood. And the crimes may increase if the power doesn't come back on. But after September 11, 2001, and the blackout of 2003, New Yorkers seems to have found a way to peacefully get along when things get rough.
When the worst you can say about Hurricane Sandy is that it compares favorably to a Los Angeles Lakers victory party, things suddenly don't look so bad.
This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Wire.
Top image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly.