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Looting: This is what HPD says it’s doing to help during Laura, what to know about those crimes during disasters

Issac Alvarado, right, and Kevin Enriquez board up windows on coastal decor store Bayside Chic, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura heads toward the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Issac Alvarado, right, and Kevin Enriquez board up windows on coastal decor store Bayside Chic, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura heads toward the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As families evacuate and stores in southeast Texas board-up ahead of Hurricane Laura, Chief Art Acevedo is warning people that Houston police will be watching out for looting.

“Although you may not see us, we will have eyes on stores, gun stores, pharmacies, etc. We will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of our community and will move quickly to arrest scofflaws,” Acevedo said on Tuesday.

Furthermore, the chief warned that its partners at the Harris County District Attorney office will hold suspected looters accountable.

Harris County District Attorney issued its own warning Wednesday, tweeting “the DA’s Office will continue operating 24/7 and prosecuting cases as they come in.”

In 2017, Texas lawmakers vowed zero tolerance for looters following thefts reported in wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Amid the storm that devastated Houston, the district attorney’s office issued a news release warning looters that they’ll face more time for crimes committed in Harris County.

The district attorney’s office established an enhancement charge that stiffened penalties, replacing two to 20-year sentences with five to 99-year sentences.

Additionally, Harris County prosecutors requested a higher bond for dozens of suspected looters.

In the aftermath of Harvey, a man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing TVs and tobacco products, totaling to a value of more than $5,200, from an area Walmart during the disaster.

Here’s how penalties increased in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey:

  • A second-degree felony will be punished as a first-degree felony.
  • A state jail felony is punished as a third-degree felony.
  • A third-degree felony is punished as a second-degree felony.
  • A Class A misdemeanor is punished by a minimum of 180 days in jail. A Class B misdemeanor is punished as a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Under Texas law, the punishment increases for crimes such as assault, robbery, burglary and theft.

In efforts to prevent looting, curfews have been imposed for areas anticipating impact.


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