Hurricane Harvey may have passed, but its repercussions are still affecting thousands throughout Texas. It is a sad reality that some people will use a natural disaster for their own personal gain. Cases of looting and burglary in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are proof that some people have no boundaries when it comes to committing crimes. The State of Texas takes looting and burglarizing of a disaster area extremely seriously, imposing heavy fines and penalties on anyone police convict of looting after Harvey.
When residences are the most vulnerable, criminals will pounce. While people are too busy evacuating, taking shelter, and staying out of harm’s way, others take the opportunity to loot and burglarize abandoned properties. Texas lawmakers have vowed to harshly penalize anyone caught looting or robbing businesses or homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. They’ve adopted a zero tolerance policy on these crimes, with Houston’s police chief promising to “do whatever it takes” to protect citizens. Part of the solution has been to impose strict penalties on those caught looting, including:
Texas laws allow harsher punishments for crimes people commit in times of natural disaster. Police chiefs and District Attorneys’ offices have vowed to work hard to make jail or prison time mandatory for every offender guilty of looting disaster areas or similar crimes. They state that these offenders will not have access to probation and other forms of leniency that might normally apply in robbery situations. Police will treat crimes committed while Texas is a disaster area much more seriously than typical offenses.
Price gouging is another problem that Hurricane Harvey victims are facing in Texas. Businesses from contractors to hotels have taken to price gouging to take advantage of vulnerable people in need. Texas is serious about people and businesses that try to take advantage of disaster during or after the storm. The law will not allow these practices to take place without consequences.
There are fines of up to $25,000 per occurrence of price gouging – a penalty that increases to $250,000 if the victim is over the age of 65. Companies can potentially go out of business from price gouging victims on gas, water, lodging, food, and other necessities. Armed robbery has also been an issue after Hurricane Harvey. Reports of armed robbers threatening business owners and evacuees have circulated throughout the state, as have stories of alleged gunshot damage to an Apple store. Anyone convicted of armed robbery during this time could face years in prison.
In an effort to stop looting, armed robbery, and burglarizing, Houston imposed a curfew from midnight until 5:00 a.m. The city also brought in additional police officers from other regions. In times of trouble, Texas stands by its citizens. The law will not go easy on criminals who are taking advantage of vulnerable home and business owners who are simply trying to pick up the pieces after a terrible storm.
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