Lawmakers Seek To Increase Looting Penalties

Jun 29, 2013

Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Several state lawmakers want to increase the penalty for looting after numerous reports of theft from victims whose homes were damaged or destroyed in last month's tornadoes.

Legislators representing several areas hit by tornadoes in May said Friday that they plan to introduce a bill next session to change looting from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“In a civil society, we all come to the aid of those devastated by tragedy,” said the bill's co-author, State Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). “It is disgusting that some members of society view suffering as an opportunity to rob with impunity. 

Under current law, illegally taking items from a disaster area is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a $3,000 fine or both.

“It’s hard to believe that anyone would try to steal from someone who’s already lost so much,” Insurance Commissioner John Doak says. “Looting is the definition of kicking a man when he’s down. We will not stand by and let thieves prey on our citizens. Looting is a cold crime that deserves a stiff penalty."

Moore police say they made more than 35 arrests for looting in the wake of the May 20 tornado that ripped through that city and two Chickasha men were arrested earlier this week for taking scrap metal from a rural area near Newalla.