Remember the journalist who narced on Hurricane Harvey survivors sifting through wreckage of a grocery store in search of something to eat yesterday? Well, the local prosecutors in Houston want you to know that they agree with him, and that such behavior, even in the face of a historic, deadly storm, will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement on Tuesday. “Anyone who tries to take advantage of this storm to break into homes or businesses should know that they are going to feel the full weight of the law.”
Under Texas law, sentences for robbery and burglary can double if the crime is committed during a declared disaster, so people “looting” food to feed their families could now face up to 20 years in prison.
The statement warned that 14 people have been arrested for alleged crimes in the last two days and “offenders will be processed around the clock and without delay.”
To make matters crystal clear, the statement said that while a home burglary conviction would normally carry a sentence of two to 20 years, now offenders could face life in prison.
A news story about the statement from the Houston Chronicle highlighted the arrests of “two roving groups of four” who were arrested outside a liquor store and a shoe store. Another man faces life in prison after ramming his truck into a convenience store in an apparent attempt to steal an ATM, police said.
Ogg told the newspaper that another six residents were arrested by Houston Police Department officers, members of the sheriff’s department, and Harris County officers. (I’ve reached out to the district attorney’s office for additional information on those arrests and will update if and when I hear back.)
Despite losing one of their officers to the storm and ongoing rescue efforts across the city, Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said he deployed cops in “heavy rain” to go and arrest people.
“We’re not just in a search-and-rescue mode, we’re still in a law enforcement and public safety mode,” Acevedo told the Chronicle. “When you prey on people in these circumstances, that’s despicable behavior and we’re all going to push hard to make sure you don’t see the sunlight anytime soon.”