As community members of Gibson and Posey Counties continue picking up the pieces following Tuesday night’s tornado, Indiana State Police are sending out a warning to those interested in picking up what’s not theirs.
In situations like this, it’s very common to see neighbors stepping up and helping one another.
But unfortunately in areas of massive destruction there’s also massive deception.
Looters, appearing as if they’re helping a clean-up effort, when in reality, they’re only interested in helping themselves.
For residents in the hardest hit areas of Gibson and Posey Counties, what was kept safely inside Tuesday night was suddenly scattered throughout the community by Wednesday morning.
Indiana State Police Sergeant Todd Ringle says, “You could have money, checks, credit cards, telephones, you know, a lot of electronics, a lot of that stuff is still salvable, so again, we don’t want people going out and just picking up items that don’t belong to them. That’s theft!”
And Sgt. Ringle says these looters are making their way to Gibson and Posey counties to take advantage of those affected by Tuesdays storms, which is why ISP is paying close attention to these specific areas.
“Security is very important,” says Sgt. Ringle. “We know if law enforcement wasn’t present more and more of these individuals would be coming in and taking things that don’t belong to them.”
In most cases, Sgt. Ringle says thieves are more interested in collecting items like aluminum and copper to sell for profit.
One person we spoke with says these valuable items could be resourceful to those most in need.
“That’s stuff that they could go scrap themselves and you know get some money to buy things that they’re going to need. Personal items, food, or shelter,” says Sara Ditterline.
Looters are a hard target to spot amidst the clean-up crews, but Sgt. Ringle says pay close attention and be vigilant.
“We understand that your out there picking up all your property and it’s a very stressful day. But if you notice someone that shouldn’t be in that area and they’re picking up large items, they’re picking up scrap metal, then by all means, contact 9-1-1 immediately.”
And for those interested only in those heavy items, they should know, if caught, they face a heavy penalty.
“A person could be fined, they could actually serve some time in prison,” says Sgt. Ringle. “But again, we just want to make sure everyone knows that it’s not okay to go to these devastated areas and pick up property that’s not theirs.”
Sgt. Ringle says that most of the time, law enforcement will be present in these disaster areas, so if someone does see suspicious activity, and there’s no access to a telephone to dial 911, immediately flag down the first patrol car that comes through the area and give them as much information as possible.