WILMINGTON — Natural disasters like Hurricane Florence can bring a city to its knees, and while events like this can lead to heartwarming stories of a community coming together — like a bar opening its doors to the weary — disasters can also bring out the worst in people.
In North Carolina looting is considered a felony offense, according to North Carolina law, “(a)ny person who commits the crime of trespass during emergency and, without legal justification, obtains or exerts control over, damages, ransacks, or destroys the property of another is guilty of the felony of looting and shall be punished as a Class H felony.”
But when the Family Dollar store on Greenfield Street was raided and stripped bare by looters, the Wilmington Police Department made a statement on Twitter regarding the incident.
NEWS ALERT – We are aware of the looting occurring at the Family Dollar Store at 13th & Greenfield Sts, unfortunately management has asked not to intervene at this time.
— Wilmington Police (@WilmingtonPD) September 15, 2018
After facing backlash from Twitter users, the WPD did an about-face and responded by saying, “Wilmington Police are identifying looters who took items from a local Family Dollar Store Saturday afternoon, despite initial concerns from the store management we will charge them to fullest extent of the law.”
Again, police faced criticism from their stance, with many commenters claiming the looters were just trying to survive and taking survival goods — but according to WPD that was not the case.
“Unfortunately, like many cities that have fallen victim to natural disasters, Wilmington has had some instances of looting. We want to assure the public that looting of any sort will not be tolerated. It is illegal to break into a store and take items. As you can see in the video posted of the incident at family dollar, suspects, who we are asking the public help to identify, are taking everything they can get their hands on. We are working diligently to identify and arrests the individuals involved. We went to be clear about this: looting is not acceptable and we will charge offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” she concluded.
Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.P@Localvoicemedia.com