Posted: Aug 30, 2012 6:20 PM by Jenise Fernandez
Updated: Aug 30, 2012 6:23 PM
A Lafayette man is in jail tonight, charged with looting. Lafayette Police say they saw Johnaton George walking near the corner of St. John Street and Versailles carrying electronic equipment. Police say the electronics were stolen from a business on Jefferson Street. George is charged with looting and criminal damage to property.
Kip Judice with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's office says the crime George committed is considered looting because it was done during a state of emergency.
"It's looting when it occurs during a hurricane or flood or some sort of natural disaster," said Judice.
Any other time, the same crime would be considered a burglary or theft. Judice says the law is in place to try and prevent looters from taking advantage of people in vunerable situations.
"We certainly don't want people to not heed the warnings of public safety personnel in fear that their things might be taken, so we want them to have a sense of security," said Judice.
In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, authorities had to deal with looting around the city and it took away from rescuing those in need.
Judice says that's why the penalties for looting are tougher.
"When we have a tropical storm or hurricane coming through, our resources are stretched and we are dealing with life saving issues," he said.
If caught looting, a person faces a minimum of three years in jail and could be fined up to $10,000.
"If you do it, you're taking a risk and could get yourself in a lot of trouble in these circumstances," he added.
Two men arrested in Breaux Bridge are also accused of looting. Walter Lewis and Norman Williams are also facing charges of simple criminal damage to property, and violation of evacuation curfew. The men are accused of breaking into a pharmacy and stealing medication.