How Best to Handle Post-Disaster Looters?

As I write this, the international media are reporting that, in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, widespread looting has “erupted” in Jamaica.

Similarly, following Frances and Charley, reports from Florida documented numerous instances of scattered looting.

Don’t know about you, but looting strikes me particularly odious, far worse than burglary or robbery. To prey on emotionally distraught families whose homes and possessions have been damaged/destroyed is unconscionable and deserves severe punishment.

What should be the policy of law enforcement who encounter looters? Although one hears of governments authorizing that they be shot on sight, my impression is that these scoundrels are simply jailed and treated as garden-variety robbers.

Frankly, the shoot-to-kill order viscerally appeals. Your thoughts?

While it is usually illegal (if not immoral) to shoot a burglar who’s running away from your home, looting is, well, different.

There are circumstances when it’s O.K. to protect your property using force. Shooting an arsonist is one of them. Shooting at a roving band of looters is another.

It would make excellent cover for the settling of scores if the option was made available to private citizens. You don’t have to be on your own property or in fear of your life and there’ll be a lot of deserted, witness-free areas where it’s just your word against the dead guy with laptop next to him.

And with the end of the assault weapons ban, no need to worry about pesky muzzle flash before the bayonet coup de grace. :smiley:

  1. Inconvenience. Looters will hit a place that’s easier to get to or get into before they’ll climb a chain-link fence or deal with barbed wire or whatever.

  2. Risk. Most looters won’t bother a place where someone’s shooting at them, although I seem to recall that after the Northridge quake, some looters came equipped with automatic weaponry, just in case.

Out of curiosity, has there been much looting in Florida? Browsing Google for news, it seems like there has been looting in Jamaica but not in Florida.

I’m sure that the police and Guard units are prepared to subdue and arrest any looters they find, but if someone were entering my house or that of a friend, I’d try to kill them.

My family went through the 1900 Storm that hit Galveston. People were cutting fingers and ears off of the corpses to get the jewelry, and the standing order was to shoot anyone found with any fingers in their pockets. An aunt was at home with the kids when she heard a noise in the kitchen; she entered to find a looter’s hands on the windowsill. It didn’t matter to him that the house was occupied. She pinned one hand with a carving knife, slammed the window, braced it shut and left him hanging until the men arrived.

That said, I grew up on the Gulf Coast and looting, comparatively, wasn’t that big of a problem after hurricanes. The greatest challenges involved providing shelter and drinking water and restoring electric power to the area.

I’ve always wondered at the effectiveness of public flogging.

Scattered reports, according to Dan Blather.
BTW, I had NO IDEA about the 1900 Galveston storm–and I read Isaac’s Storm. Will have to read again. (I also remember looting after the downed Lockerbie flight, but that isn’t what I’m directly talking about)

Can anyone provide a cite of a US municipality issuing orders to shoot to kill re: looters?

There was some looting after Charley and Frances. They were thrown in jail with no chance of bail.

Personally, I favor strapping looters to a palm tree on the coast during the next hurricane, but that’s just me.

How about this?

After Andrew a co-worker and I drove by what had been a trailer park a few days before and saw a cop questioning a guy who was probably looting. My co-worker yelled something like “Way to go” out the window and the cop asked us, “Do you know this guy? He says he lives here but he has no ID. If we can’t prove he’s looting there’s nothing we can do with him.” We didn’t, of course, and drove on. It wasn’t until years later that I thought of telling the cop to ask the guy for his address. There were no street signs or house numbers, after all.