Disaster Preparedness: Are There More Looters Now or Then?

Looters Disaster Preparedness

Looting is a common side effect of nearly every major disaster. This storefront shows the man-made disaster in New York City following Superstorm Sandy in 2012. (Vladimir Korostyshevskiy / Shutterstock.com)

Looters and Disaster Response

A few days after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, most of the officers in the New Orleans Police Department were pulled off of rescue operations in an effort to pull the city back from the criminal element, especially looters.

It speaks loudly to the impact crime can have after a disaster. Every officer that was reassigned to handle looters and other lawlessness was an officer that couldn’t be out there looking for the elderly, disabled and injured.

Not All Looters are the Same

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You could hold less animosity for the people in a state of panic who stole groceries and other provisions out of survival fears. You might have fewer problems with a family that climbed through a broken window and into the shoe store to put new pairs on each of their children after flooding washed away their belongings.

It’s something completely different when you consider those who loaded up on new furniture, expensive booze, big-screen televisions and other luxuries in the wake of all the chaos.

There were plenty of the latter. Many businesses were cleared out to their walls, and plenty of those goods went well beyond the realm of necessities.

Looters: Catch and Release

Regaining a sense of order was no easy task. Officers had to prioritize who they were hauling in, and in many cases, police were limited to a system of catch and release.

The jail sustained significant damage in the hurricane, leaving the capacity to house offenders at a high premium. It meant law enforcement simply let go many of those causing trouble unless they were involved in violent offenses.

Rampant crime not only affected the crucial work of rescuing those from the floodwaters, but it also stood in the way of those who came in to start repairs on the power grid and other infrastructure.

2 thoughts on “Disaster Preparedness: Are There More Looters Now or Then?

  1. BiffSarin

    Mojo- “I think that old shoot to kill the looters to teach them a lesson thing is an anachronism. Not that I’m against it. It just isn’t done anymore.”

    Well that may be true for law enforcement, but not for me. If you come onto my street to loot, they’ll find you face down in the Mississippi mud.

  2. MojoHand

    I don’t recall there being a “shoot to kill” order being given after Katrina to curb looting. Especially since a number of NOPD’s finest were caught joining in the post storm shopping spree. As a matter of fact, working as a police officer in South Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, we were not given a shoot to kill order for anything. The National Guard members who were dispatched to the area to offer assistance were not even provided with ammunition for their weapons, and once this little not-so-secret got out, a number of M-16s went missing. They weren’t even allowed to shoot for self-preservation. I think that old shoot to kill the looters to teach them a lesson thing is an anachronism. Not that I’m against it. It just isn’t done anymore.