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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
World Trade Center looters arrested
World Trade Center shopping concourse
The concourse is patrolled by the National Guard
Two people have been arrested for looting $3,700 worth of watches from a jewellery shop in the shopping arcade beneath the World Trade Center, police in New York said.

The pair, a former New York corrections office, posing as a police officer, and his friend, were arrested last week on charges of burglary, grand larceny and criminal impersonation, a police official said.

There is a small segment that came down with evil intentions. Those people are being arrested

Police spokesman
They had been working as volunteers in the disaster area when they allegedly took the watches.

New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said that no other shops have reported looting, but he did say that some of the rescue workers at ground zero had themselves fallen victim to theft.

The shopping complex is situated below the Trade Center, at the foot of an escalator rescuers used to search for survivors in the corridors beneath the debris.

Shops intact

Despite the incredible devastation above some of the shops remain almost intact.

The concourse is within the crime scene area and is being patrolled by police and officials said it would be virtually impossible for civilians to reach the shops.

The looting at the Tourneau jewellery store was discovered by an infantry unit from the National Guard.

New York rescue workers
Supplies meant for rescue workers have been stolen

"There have been people down here trying to steal from a mass grave. They are grave robbers," said Captain Vincent Heintz of the National Guard in an interview with the New York Times.

But the authorities are keen to stress that incidents of looting have been extremely rare.

"I do not want to give the impression that we have throngs of looters going through there. That is absolutely untrue," said one police spokesman.

Although the men arrested were working as volunteers, the official said that 99% of those who had turned out to help with the rescue mission had the best intentions.

"There is a small segment that came down with evil intentions. Those people are being arrested," he said.

Rescuers targeted

But even the rescue workers themselves have been targeted by thieves.

On Thursday night summons were issued to four or five people for crimes like possession of supplies, clothes and tools meant for the rescue workers.

Damaged New York building
Thousands of homes remain off limits

"A lot of it is people coming down and picking up equipment, putting on somebody's clothing and walking away, falsifying press credentials," Mr Kerik said.

Authorities have also received reports of items being stolen from Battery Park City apartments, a luxury development next to the Trade Center.

One resident Karlene Wiese said that someone had stolen money and jewellery from her apartment.

James Gill, chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, said the reports were "appalling", but limited to just a few homes.

Residents returning

More residents from the area surrounding the Trade Center have now been allowed to return home.

Eight apartments at Battery Park City opened on Saturday, another four will open next week.

We are displaced and everything, but to be alive is very special

Rick Cunningham

"I will be able to live and hopefully sleep in my apartment. But there is a battle zone, I mean I can't walk directly to my apartment, I was told I have to use certain streets and go around certain buildings. So it is not going to be easy, but I'm willing to put up with the inconvenience to be in my home," said one tenant, Alyssa Scherer.

But about 5,500 homes still remain off limits.

"We are the lucky one," said Rick Cunningham, who expects to live with his wife and child in temporary housing for a while.

"We are displaced and everything, but to be alive is very special," he said.

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Education
New York schools return
12 Sep 01 | Americas
Strain on 'heroic rescuers'
17 Sep 01 | Americas
New York returns to work
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