9/26/2005

KHOU.com - Looting in Houston

White Men Can Loot ? -- law

HOUSTON -- When Houston-area residents heeded warnings to flee Hurricane Rita, they left behind nearly abandoned neighborhoods and stores.

And a potential playground for thieves.

By Friday morning at least three people had been arrested on charges of looting. Houston school district police arrested three juveniles Thursday night who were accused of going room to room at Hamilton Middle School looking for electronics.

“They did this because they thought no one would be paying attention,” district spokesman Terry Abbott said. “We are amazed it was happening even before the storm.”

Houston Police Capt. Dwayne Ready said city police had not received reports of looting but were making extra patrols in areas around pawn shops, gun shops and stores such as Wal-Mart that might “be attractive to the criminal element.”

Ready said the department would pay greater-than-usual attention to pawn shops and gun shops after looters in New Orleans raided such stores, leaving roving bands of gunmen on the streets after Hurricane Katrina.

Ready said officers had responded to several burglary calls since the mass evacuations in the state’s largest city started earlier this week, but said they were routine calls and didn’t rise to the level of looting.

“I think the key element in looting is the fact that those who would not otherwise engage themselves in criminal activity (join in) and believe they will be able to hide in the crowd,” Ready said. “It’s the difference between an unlawful assembly and a riot. Essentially (looting) is theft but I think its when the crowd believes they can hide against the anonymity of a large crowd engaged in the same kind of conduct.”

KHOU.com | News for Houston, Texas | Top Stories

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