The top law enforcement officers in York and Chester counties warn that anyone who commits a crime during what likely will be emergency conditions for days during Hurricane Florence will “go to jail.”
Any attempt during the weather conditions to commit looting, crimes of opportunity at closed businesses or homes, or scams concerning charities or the needy will be investigated and prosecuted, said South Carolina’s police and prosecutors.
“The York County Sheriff’s Office and all of the local police departments will be extremely vigilant to detect those who will attempt to criminally capitalize on the effects of this storm,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said. “Criminals should know that during weather events such as this, law enforcement is out in full force.”
As much as 10 inches of rain coupled with tropical force winds of 40 mph from Friday through at least Sunday is expected to cause widespread flooding and potentially knock out power.
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Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood said his officers will shuttle emergency health officials to and from Chester’s hospital, assist the elderly and special needs persons, and clear roads and assist flooding victims. But if people commit “awful and intolerable crimes of opportunity” during the emergency, Underwood said there will be “zero tolerance.”
“Criminals who break the law during this time, when law enforcement is doing all it can to help the public, will go to jail,” Underwood said.
Tolson and Underwood urge anyone who sees a crime to report it and let law enforcement handle it.
“Don’t try and handle it yourself,” Underwood said. “Call the law.”
Randy Newman, 6th Circuit solicitor who prosecutes cases in Chester and Lancaster counties, said, “looting or any other crime like it will not be tolerated.”
Newman and Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit solicitor for York County, also said beware of scammers who may use crisis conditions to “turn a quick buck.” Both prosecutors said be generous in giving, but don’t get victimized.
“During a catastrophic event like this many people wish to help by contributing money to charitable organizations devoted to assisting those affected by the disaster,” Brackett said. “People should remember to make sure the charity they are donating to is legitimate. Many scammers try to take advantage of events such as this to turn a quick buck. Make sure that your money is really going to an organization that will use it to help those in need.”
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said earlier this week price gouging will be prosecuted statewide. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said hundreds of state police are deployed to ensure public safety.
“Sadly, we know there are those who take advantage of times like these to commit criminal acts,” Keel said. “Whether it’s price gouging, break-ins or theft, know that we already have additional law enforcement resources in place and dedicated to keeping the peace and arresting those who choose to break our laws.”