Looters caught attacking shops during coronavirus lockdown
04/05/2020 / By Franz Walker / Comments
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Looters caught attacking shops during coronavirus lockdown

As the nation grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some people are taking advantage of the situation to conduct unsavory activities. Police in several states have reported looters attacking businesses during the crisis amid extended social distancing measures.

In Santa Cruz, California, police arrested five individuals who allegedly attempted to carry out robberies on businesses in the city. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, two men were detained by police after they were found outside a storage warehouse unit alongside a stolen vehicle, while over at the East Coast, New York City police arrested a masked suspect who robbed a deli in Brooklyn.

Looters are taking advantage of the coronavirus

The City of Santa Clara in California is currently under a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus outbreak. This didn’t stop the five suspected looters however from trying to make a quick buck. Pictures from the scene of their arrest show shops with their windows broken from the looters’ attempts at entry.

Authorities initially charged the suspects with burglary. However, the charges were later increased to looting.

Meanwhile, in York County in  South Carolina, Ronald Nicholas Miller, 26 and Justin Andrew Osczepinski, 30, were detained when police found them outside a storage warehouse unit. They were later charged with looting after deputies recovered items and a stolen truck from the scene.

While South Carolina has declared a state of emergency and implemented a number of measures to combat the outbreak, Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Both suspects, however, hail from North Carolina, Miller from Matthews and Osczepinski from Charlotte, a state which has issued stay-at-home orders.

In New York City, a masked suspect was taken into custody by the New York Police Department (NYPD) for looting Tylenol and cash from a deli in Brooklyn. The suspect looted the Avenue H Deli at the corner of Avenue H and Utica Avenue at around 4:30 in the morning.

Officers from the NYPD’s 63rd Precinct as well as emergency service units surrounded the building shortly after. The suspect was eventually found on the roof of an adjacent building a few hours later.

“In 20 years, something like this has never happened to me,” said deli owner Abdulla Musaid. “I want to thank the police for catching the suspect.”

Authorities are taking looting seriously

With the threat of looting looming over cities in the wake of social distancing measures, cities are looking to throw the book on any suspects caught attempting to take advantage of the situation.

In Santa Clara, a spokesman for the Santa Clara Police Department said that the city was now looking to present as many charges as possible to people who take advantage of the lockdown to commit crimes.

Meanwhile, South Carolina had already made looting a felony two weeks ago when its governor declared a state of emergency.

“There is a state of emergency law in effect and this looting incident was charged under that emergency law,” said Trent Faris, a spokesman for the York County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to the looting charges, both suspects in the recent incident are facing further charges. Miller was also charged with 23 further offenses including burglary, larceny, conspiracy and possession of burglary tools. He’s currently in jail on a $1153,500 bond. Osczepinksi, on the other hand, has been charged with 25 crimes including burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle, larceny, possession of burglary tools and conspiracy.

Businesses aren’t taking chances

While police are doing their best to discourage looting, many businesses aren’t taking chances. Throughout several cities in America, businesses have started boarding up their storefronts in preparation for possible looting and rioting.

Part of the worry comes from possible police manpower shortages. In New York City alone, over 6,100 officers are out sick while 1,400 officers have tested positive for the coronavirus as of reporting time.

Meanwhile, major crimes in NYC are up by 10 percent despite social distancing measures. In the 63rd Precinct, robberies are up by 200 percent year to date with 26 recorded so far compared to the eight this time last year.

In response to this New York City Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea said that his department will “stand strong” during the outbreak.

“We stand strong, on the front lines, to ensure a common good for all and to continue to relentlessly drive down crime, deliver justice for every crime victim and maintain a sense of safety we believe all New Yorkers deserve,” Shea added.

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