In 2017, the U.S. experienced a record year of weather and climate-related disasters, including major hurricanes, several huge wildfires and flooding that hit parts of the U.S.
All told, the damage from natural disasters came out to about $306 billion, making it the most expensive year for natural disasters in U.S. history.
While the damage from these disasters is no doubt devastating for property owners, many people face the threat of looting after disasters since many victims were forced to evacuate.
The reality is, it would be so disheartening to come back to your home to find it damaged from flooding, only to realize that it’s also been picked through by looters.
In October 2018, over 375,000 people were told to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category five storm.
Once the storm had passed, law enforcement in the area was forced to deal with stopping looters who were taking advantage of the evacuations.
Initially, curfews helped to slow the amount of looting in hurricane-ravaged communities along the Panhandle, but law enforcement and homeowners continued to stay vigilant. Signs were posted at homes that read, “Looters will be shot” or “You loot, we shoot.”
According to one resident, “They’re doing it in the dead of night, you can’t even tell if they’re black, white, purple or green. It’s so hard to tell because they’re coming here at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”
Bay County Sheriff’s Deputy Maj. Jimmy Stanford told the Associated Press that his department arrested on average 10 looters a night in the days following the storm and that many of the looters were armed.
Bay County, where Panama City and Mexico Beach are located, instituted a curfew that runs from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and people are being arrested for violating the curfew.
In the days following the Hurricane, the highest number of calls the Sheriff’s Office received was 330 calls for suspicious persons and 103 burglary calls.
Clearly, anytime there is a natural disaster where people have evacuated there is going to be deadbeats who take advantage of the situation.
The pathetic thing is, many of these criminals will come from out of town just to victimize unsuspecting people who have evacuated to avoid getting stuck in a dangerous situation.
With that in mind, I want to share with you a few ideas that can help keep your home safe, while you are gone and looters are on the prowl.
Make it appear that someone is home. Looters are obviously more prone to strike when they believe they won’t be met with any resistance. By making it appear that there is a lot going on at your residence, they may be intimidated and move on to the next house.
Of course, chances are your home will be without power, so you could set up battery-operated lights such as the Mr. Beams motion activated lights. In addition, when you do evacuate your home, consider leaving the TV or radio on.
In the event that your home does have power a looter will think someone is home watching the latest news and they may move along.
Block entrances. Ideally, you want to make it difficult for looters to get onto your property and in your front door by creating obstacles around the property.
Obstacles come in all shapes and forms from thorny bushes in the front of your house or by windows, to quality deadbolt locks. Remove any hiding spots around your property such any kind of large debris in your yard.
As an extra layer of security you could install chicken wire around your windows to avoid debris easily coming in and to make it more difficult for intruders.
Remember, looters aren’t looking for a fight, and they aren’t likely going to waste time removing chicken wire from a window when they can simply move on to another home.
Make them think you’ve already been hit. If someone is able to get inside your home you want to make it appear that there is nothing valuable and the house has already been looted.
To do this, consider leaving cabinet doors open, along with dresser draws or other places looters would look for valuables. If you have a jewelry box, empty it, and leave it upside down on the ground so it looks like things have been taken.
In other words, make your home a fake “crime scene” and show the looters there is nothing for them to take.
Sadly, most of us probably can’t remember a time when there was a natural disaster and there were no reports of looting.
Unfortunately, people take advantage of the disasters that hit our communities and looting will most likely increase based on the fact that some looters actually organize their crimes on social media and gather large groups to victimize the innocent.