TRENTON – State Sen. Barbara Buono announced legislation today that would provide harsher penalties for looters during a state of emergency.
“After the devastation and destruction that so many families endured as a result of superstorm Sandy, too many people were subject to further trauma as their homes, businesses, and property faced the prospect of being looted,” said Buono (D-Middlesex.) “We cannot allow anyone to prey on those hardest hit in a natural disaster like the one we just experienced.”
In the aftermath of the storm, accounts of looting in numerous New Jersey communities left many property owners feeling vulnerable, anxious and hesitant to leave areas made unsafe by the destruction wrought by Sandy. By staying behind to protect their worldly possessions they increased the likelihood of placing themselves and their families further into harm’s way.
“We’ve seen people in New Jersey lose everything in this storm,” said Buono. “And to see those same people fall prey to those who would deprive them of what little is left of their lives is not only heartbreaking but it’s simply reprehensible.”
Currently, those who loot in the aftermath of a natural disaster are subject to criminal penalties established for burglary, robbery, and theft. Buono’s bill would establish committing those offenses during a declared state of emergency as an aggravating circumstance the court must weigh during sentencing. “Hopefully this will help deter people from making bad decisions that just serve to make a terrible situation even worse.”
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