The Augusta Chronicle: Get tougher on looters

The following editorial appeared in the Augusta Chronicle on Sept.12:

 

They ignore evacuation orders and curfews. They lurk behind, potentially endangering first responders tasked with saving them, and preying on those who’ve followed the law and common sense to seek safety elsewhere.

They’re looters. And we’ve absolutely had it up to the gills with them.

It’s time to buffet them with Category 5 punishments.

A Tampa man allegedly used a stolen truck to smash into a clothing store early Sunday. After finishing his power-shopping, he attempted to elude police both in the truck and on foot before being apprehended. Like police needed to be doing that.

A TV news station in Fort Lauderdale caught groups of looters emptying out a shoe store and more as Irma bore down on a mostly barren city. Police there arrested nine.

Miami-Dade Police Department announced 28 arrests for looting. They even had to call out the SWAT team in Orlando to deal with alleged gun thieves.

“Going to prison over a pair of sneakers is a fairly bad life choice,” Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said dryly. “Stay home and look after your loved ones and be thankful they are all safe.”

Sage advice. Of course, that presupposes these folks have their priorities straight, which they obviously don’t. And since you can’t very well munch on Air Jordans, you can stash away “need” as an excuse.

These reprobates, when society takes the trouble to stop them and police are forced to divert their attention from emergency management, face theft charges — little more. In Florida, at least, there’s such a thing as “grand theft during a state of emergency.” But all that means is that your theft charge is upgraded to the next highest theft charge.

Big deal. It needs to be a much bigger deal. Serious time, serious fine.

Residents and business owners who do the right thing and evacuate when told to shouldn’t have to worry that predators will only descend on the sources of their livelihoods and the going concerns they’ve worked hard to build up — and which fuel the very societies the plunderers infest. …

We certainly have no patience for those unscrupulous businesses that gouge people with hopelessly inflated prices during disasters. In the midst of Hurricane Harvey there were reports out of Texas of $10-a-gallon g

Utterly warranted. But what about when it’s the businesses that are being gashed, damaged and robbed? What about the corrosive nature of animalistic ransacking on society?

Penalties for such bottom-feeding contempt of civil society — and for the hard work of others — simply must be met with sentences and fines that inspire shock and awe in the perpetrators and cold, concrete deterrence in others. Every state legislature should consider it, particularly those in disaster-prone regions.

Moreover, we should consider how it is that such sociopathic tendencies — and the naked act of stealing in dim daylight from one’s fellow man in the eye of a hurricane — can be so broadly embraced. This is more than a “bad life choice,” as the law officer put it. It’s a vortex of immorality, a parenting disaster, a mass disorder that must be dealt with after the winds die down.

There was a goofy debate a few years ago about whether the Vikings got a bad rap. “Viking graves reveal a softer, more fashion-conscious side,” The Guardian wrote. Good grief.

While America’s modern-day Vikings are not nearly as hairy or violent, there’s no soft side to expose here, either.

More

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 8:11am

Letters to the editor Tuesday