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NRA's LaPierre riles some New Yorkers with post-Sandy crime claims

February 18, 2013|By Tina Susman
  • National Rifle Assn. official Wayne LaPierre has upset some New Yorkers by describing Brooklyn as a hellish place overrun by looters after Superstorm Sandy.
National Rifle Assn. official Wayne LaPierre has upset some New Yorkers… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

NEW YORK — To hear Wayne LaPierre of the NRA tell it, southern Brooklyn was a horrifying scene of looters gone wild in the days after Hurricane Sandy plunged much of New York City into darkness and sent the sea washing through the streets.

To hear the New York police department’s version, LaPierre was shooting from the hip when he made his claims in a Daily Caller column aimed at revving up gun owners to join the National Rifle Assn. and prepare for battle with hordes of rioters, terrorists, gangs and lone criminals.

In fact, according to crime statistics, looting did jump in some neighborhoods hit hard by Sandy, but overall crime plunged.

And in the areas that saw upticks in looting, the actual numbers would not seem to be high enough to match the nightmarish description penned by LaPierre, who has become the nation’s leading gun advocate since the mass shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“In contrast to the picture LaPierre painted, police were everywhere in blackout neighborhoods, neighbors helped one another, and the lone looting of a supermarket resulted in 18 arrests on the spot. We experienced a spike in burglaries of abandoned, storm-damaged houses while the owners were away, but all other crimes were down significantly with no shootings or murders at all in the Coney Island area that LaPierre described as hell,” the police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said Monday.

LaPierre’s lengthy column, published last week, warned of a “tsunami of gun control” if anti-gun types like New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg aren’t stopped.

“We saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia,” wrote LaPierre. “Looters ran wild in South Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”

According to the NYPD, except for burglary, which includes looting, all major crimes were down or flat  in the first week of November after Sandy hit, compared with the same week in 2011. Burglary was up across the city and in some areas did indeed spike. 

In the 61st precinct, which includes a large swath of south Brooklyn that lost power during Sandy, there were 14 burglaries in the week ending Nov. 4, compared with three during the same time in 2011, an increase of 366%. 

The neighboring 60th precinct, which includes Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and other seafront neighborhoods hit by Sandy’s historic storm surge, suffered 17 burglaries that week compared with eight the previous year, an increase of 112.5%.

But citywide, there was a drop of 17% in shootings, 47% in rapes, 22% in robberies, 18% in assaults, 45% in grand larceny, and 22% in stolen cars. The city also went a record eight days without a murder directly after Sandy, said Browne.

Since then, things seem to be getting back to normal. The most recent weekly statistics showed robberies between Feb. 4-10 down 3.8% from the same week in 2011 and overall crime down more than 2% compared with a year earlier across the city.

Still, LaPierre — who did not say where his post-Sandy apocalyptic vision came from — says it’s crucial that everyone buy a gun, not just residents of southern Brooklyn. “Hurricanes.  Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe,” he wrote in his piece, which has prompted several local leaders to invite LaPierre to visit his version of hell.

One of them, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, even offered to be LaPierre’s bodyguard should he accept the challenge to stroll through Coney Island and its environs.

In a letter to the NRA leader, Markowitz took exception not only to LaPierre’s description of uber-hip Brooklyn, but to his argument that everyone would be safer if there were more guns on the streets, not fewer.  

“Simply put, you are living in the past if you think Brooklyn is anything other than the place to be,” wrote Markowitz, noting the borough’s pricey real estate, glitzy new sports arena and burgeoning population of writers, musicians and actors.

LaPierre, who after the Newtown shooting called for armed guards at schools, hasn’t responded to the lashings from his New York-based critics or to their invitations. He also did not respond to requests for comment from the Los Angeles Times, which asked, among other things, if he had ever actually visited south Brooklyn.

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