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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City crime dropped by a third in the days after superstorm Sandy, but there was a slight increase in burglaries after at least 15 people were charged with looting empty businesses and homes blacked out since the disaster.
Between Monday - when the storm hit, killing 41 people in the city - and Friday, murder dropped by 86 percent, rape fell 44 percent, robbery decreased by 30 percent, assault by 31 percent, larceny by 48 percent and car thefts by 24 percent. Burglaries rose by 3 percent.
During that period, overall crime declined in New York City by 32 percent from the same week the year before.
"Overall, there were 1,061 crimes over the last five days compared to 1,541 last year," New York police spokesman Paul Browne said in a statement. "Police continued to be deployed to storm-affected areas by the thousands on extended tours of duty to provide security and recovery assistance."
The drop in crime comes as New York police have been stretched to respond to one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region, sparking dangerous rescue efforts and concerns about crime in storm-darkened neighborhoods.
Browne said that earlier on Saturday, a man wearing a Red Cross jacket was arrested for burglary on Staten Island after police saw him checking the front doors of unoccupied houses.
Police presence at gas stations was increased on Saturday, said Browne, after at least 10 people were arrested on Friday for various disputes over line jumping. Drivers have been lining up for hours and tempers have been fraying as gas became scarce.
Five other people were arrested for disorderly conduct at gas stations on Saturday, he said.
In Queens, more than 15 people have been charged with looting and a man was charged with threatening another driver with a gun after trying to cut in on a line of cars waiting for gas, District Attorney Richard Brown said earlier this week.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney