Police in Houston have issued a stern warning to anyone considering engaging in looting or price gouging during Hurricane Harvey: neither will be tolerated.
Following reports of looting during the major storm, Houston police have been stepping up security efforts, which includes imposing a curfew and stiffer penalties for any crimes committed in the area hit by the storm.
Furthermore, Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, stated that the curfew, which is in effect from midnight until 5:00 AM, is designed to help prevent any and all criminal activity in the area. Turner clarified, however, that the curfew does not apply to first responders, flood volunteers, those who may be seeking shelter, and individuals who are going both to and from work.
The Houston Police Department has not released the total numbers for how many criminal incidents have taken place in areas that have been hit by flooding. The chief of police stated that he simply did not have any actual numbers at this time. However, at least 40 people have been arrested and accused of looting. They will likely face stiffer penalties if it was discovered that they had broken the law in areas that were the most affected by Harvey. For instance, they could face life in prison if they burglarized a home during the storm.
Authorities are also concerned about individuals impersonating federal agents. There have been reports of people dressing up as Homeland Security agents, knocking on the doors of homes to tell people to evacuate, and then burglarize the homes. A spokesman for the agency has said that legitimate agents will wear badges to identify themselves and that residents should always request to see these badges as well as other credentials.
Additionally, there have also been reports of price gouging, such as loaves of bread being offered for $15 each and gas for $100 per gallon. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has since warned that this type of activity is illegal and that those caught engaging in it could face a penalty of up to $25,000 per incident.
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