City spared repeat of looting frenzy

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The Independent US

Looting broke out in two Canadian cities and in parts of New York as the lights went out, but police officials in Canada and the United States appeared relieved yesterday that it did not become widespread, as happened during the infamous 1977 blackout in New York.

Looting broke out in two Canadian cities and in parts of New York as the lights went out, but police officials in Canada and the United States appeared relieved yesterday that it did not become widespread, as happened during the infamous 1977 blackout in New York.

In Ottawa, the Canadian capital, police reported 23 cases of looting, including a hold-up at a jewellery store which ended when two assistants chased the armed robbers into traffic and tackled one of them to the ground. The other escaped. In Toronto, police made 38 arrests and reported 114 looting incidents

In the New York borough of Brooklyn, about 20 people were arrested trying to break into a shop selling training shoes. Police in the city reported a handful of other incidents.

Overall, however, the impulse to pull together in a time of crisis appeared to outweigh any temptation to go on a violent rampage.

In New York in 1977 it was a different story. It was the Summer of Sam, the whole city transfixed by a serial killer stalkingits neighbourhoods. Economic times were tough. Crime was soaring. And then, for 25 anger-filled and violent hours at the height of it all, the lights went out. Despite instances of extraordinary good neighbourliness to help people through the night, the poorer districts, in particular, faced it in a state of anarchy.

Shops were looted and destroyed. Cars were lifted out of dealership car parks. More than 1,000 fires were started. And the police, despite making more than 3,000 arrests, were unable to contain the mayhem.

Anger was the defining emotion of the moment, even among those who did not translate it into violence. Time magazine later defined it a "night of terror". The looters called it "Christmas in July", a free-for-all in which luxury goods were there for the taking.

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