At a press conference Tuesday night, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a mandatory curfew from the hours of midnight to 5 a.m. in order to prevent the possibility of widespread looters in Hurricane Harvey throughout the city. In particular, we believe this aims to derail the looting of non-survivor items such as big screen televisions and robbing stores of items that aren't essential to survival.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo explained that curfews can be used as a means to more clearly assess the intentions of people who are out after the legally binding curfew. He issued a warning to all residents to stay off the streets during the curfew times unless it was absolutely necessary.
At this time, the Houston PD is switching its efforts from that of search-and-rescue to that of policing criminals and keeping the citizens of Houston safe from all crime, including looters. There were also warnings to residents that groups of criminals impersonating police officers have been reportedly going door to door in certain areas telling the people that there is a mandatory evacuation which allows them to know exactly which homes were vacant and primed for looting.
Chief Acevedo urged potential thieves to stay out of his city and promised to find any criminals and give them the fullest prosecution by law.
These warnings fell upon a few deaf ears as looters have already been apprehended amid the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey according to authorities. Chief Acevedo stated that even though his police force have done over 3,500 rescues since the beginning of the storm, that his department is still dedicated to operating as a law enforcement agency and will not allow people to victimize others.
On Tuesday morning authorities discovered the body of a Houston police officer who had drowned in his patrol car two days earlier, at the storm’s height. Sergeant Steve Perez, a veteran officer, was on his way to work on Sunday morning — spending two and a half hours looking for a path through rain-lashed streets — when he drove into a flooded underpass.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that Perez’s wife had asked him not to go in that day. He went, Acevedo said, “because he has that in his DNA.”
He proudly proclaimed that in the state of Texas, they are a welcoming kind but sternly intolerant of people victimizing others, armed robberies being especially heinous in their book. He once again asserted that his police officers will catch you and the district attorney has already agreed to prosecute criminals during this trying time to the fullest extent of the law. He bolstered that statement by noting that his administration will urge juries and judges to issue the toughest sentences upon successful convictions related to the Hurricane Harvey disaster.
Their local District Attorney's Office said in a statement that 14 looters were arrested and jailed in just the past two days and will face stiffer penalties than under normal circumstances under a revised Texas law that allows for tougher sentencing on crimes committed during a crisis.
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He spelled out the law by saying that punishment increases for such criminal acts as robbery, assault, theft and burglary if they are carried out in any place that has been declared a disaster area by the state's governor. To drive home the extent of his warning, he factually noted that merely burglarizing, or looting a home could bring a prison sentence of two to twenty years before, but under the new revision it would not see criminals convicted of these crimes facing five years to life in prison.
The district attorney said that displaced families or people who have been harmed by the hurricane simply will not become easy prey for criminals and that his office and the police department will see to that. He reiterated that criminals who loot homes of business will feel the full brunt of of the law and the new stiff prison sentences.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey have seen more than 13,300 people to seek refuge in shelters and federal authorities estimate that more than 30,000 residents could be displaced from their homes as rampant flooding continues to be a problem.
The Department of Labor said that it has approved a $10 million grant to assist with cleanup efforts in Texas. President Trump officially declared "emergency conditions" in Louisiana where the storm was headed as its next devastating landfall.
Hurricane Harvey is the worst storm to hit Texas.