Looting has no place in our society – or in any society, for that matter.
Not only is it illegal, it is often used as an excuse to steal others’ belongings during protests, riots or when natural disasters strike our land. All too often, we witness this during riots and protests as people, some with bandanas or masks covering their face, break out store windows and commit theft. We witnessed this in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting death of Michael Brown in August 2014, when people not only burned businesses to the ground, they were seen stealing items from stores that had been broken into. The looters weren’t there to honor Brown’s life; they were there under the cover of nightfall to commit theft, plain and simple. We hope those who were apprehended through observation or video surveillance were punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Most recently, we saw looting taking place during the natural disasters of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. We saw images of people breaking storefront windows and crawling in and out of those windows with stolen items. There were also reports of people breaking into houses. Again, people were using the destruction of a massive hurricane to commit crimes. Florida was hit particularly hard by looters, especially in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas. On Sunday, a team from ABC News affiliate WPLG shot video of a group of “shoppers” who allegedly made their own entrance into a closed Simon’s Sportswear store by entering and exiting through a large, broken glass cavity. In the footage, one man is seen walking off with multiple boxes before entering a silver SUV. Another man is spotted lugging a clear plastic tub filled with inventory. A day later, the city’s police chief, Rick Maglione, called the idea of stealing sneakers while Irma was lashing the city “a fairly bad life choice.”
Miami police took it a step further and posted a tweet showing men sitting in a jail cell with their faces blurred out. The tweet included a message: “Thinking about looting? Ask these guys how that turned out.”
Burglary is a felony offense in Florida and carries severe penalties that will typically include prison and probation.
Another issue we take with these lawless looters is that the police already have enough on their hands dealing with Irma. They shouldn’t also have to deal with people breaking the law by looting homes and businesses. Our hearts go out to law enforcement there who had to deal with this.
What happened to the people in Texas and in Florida was and continues to be a tragedy. They’ve endured situations that many of us living inland can’t imagine. They deserve to go back to their houses and stores, hopefully intact. But if not, they shouldn’t have to go through the headache of filling out police reports and going through their insurance companies not only to report what the hurricane did, but also what looters took from them as well.