Dozens of looters in Wilmington, North Carolina, targeted a closed Family Dollar Store on Greenfield Street in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, WECT-TV reported.
What was the scene?
WECT reporter Chelsea Donovan spotted “dozens of people carrying items back to the public housing community Houston Moore,” during the TV station's coverage of the aftermath of the devastating storm. She confronted some of looters, telling them they were committing a crime.
"When we came over the hill on Greenfield Street, you could just see people everywhere," Donovan said.
Looters trashed the inside of Family Dollar store as they tore through shelves and hauled off items in duffel bags and trash bags.
Assistant Police Chief Mitch Cunningham told the TV station the owner initially asked police to stand down because he didn't want to pursue charges.
NEWS ALERT - We are aware of the looting occurring at the Family Dollar Store at 13th & Greenfield Sts, unfortunate… https://t.co/LndNvO6C1v— Wilmington Police (@Wilmington Police)1537043262.0
Officers spoke with the district attorney and again to the owner, who later changed his mind, WECT reported.
Police are now working to identify and charge those involved in the looting that took place Friday. The police department is also enforcing an extended curfew for blocks between 13th, 14th, Greenfield, and Martin streets, according to the report. The curfew runs from 5 p.m. and will last until 6 a.m.
"We take looting very seriously and we are going to aggressively pursue any kind of looting that goes on," Cunningham told the TV station. "We are going to take a strong stand."
District Attorney Ben David announced earlier in the week that he was working to clear space in the jail so looters could face consequences for taking advantage of a disastrous situation.
Were would-be looters forewarned?
Earlier in the week, four people were reportedly arrested on felony breaking and entering charges. Police warned that people would face arrest for breaking into homes and vehicles in the aftermath of the hurricane.
David issued a public statement: "There is a vacancy sign on our jail."
Inmates with low-level misdemeanors were released on their own recognizance and others were transported to other detention facilities to make room for looters, the report stated.
“We have room for people who are going to show the worst in humanity during this. If that means going into unoccupied homes because people have left or looting property that’s exposed to the elements or price gouging that comes in the wake of clean up," David said.
He also suggested that police prosecute looters to the fullest extent of the law.
"It is a felony," David said. "These are serious crimes, and they are going to be seriously punished."
Police are sorting through the Family Dollar video, hoping to identify suspects. Community members were also asked to turn in anyone they recognize.
Police arrested five people who allegedly looted another Family Dollar store on Dawson Street.
David said the looters' conduct does not reflect the overall community.