New South Wales police have issued an impassioned plea for looters to stop targeting people who’ve lost their belongings in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.
By yesterday afternoon, police in Lismore had already arrested one man for theft and intimidation and told 16 other leave the city’s CBD, after they were suspected of stealing belongings people had put outside their homes and businesses to try.
The 41-year-old man who was arrested for intimidation allegedly threatened locals who confronted him over what they believed were thefts of property.
“The residents of Lismore have suffered loss of life, loss of property and emotional turmoil from the recent flood events across Northern NSW,” police said in a statement. “Haven’t they suffered enough without individuals stealing what items they have left!”
Richmond detective chief inspector Cameron Lindsay said that it appeared some people believed that flood-damaged property equalled “you can help yourself”.
“Residents are purely moving items outside to clean them off and return them inside businesses or homes and due to this activity are now becoming victims of theft,” he said, and encouraged people who see anyone acting suspiciously to make a report to police.
Police also increased patrols around the area.
Meanwhile, police told The Morning Bulletin in Rockhampton that they’d increased their presence to ensure there’s no looting of damaged property.
“In any event like this, we get the best and worst of human nature,” Capricornia district superintendent Ron Van Saane told the newspaper. “Rockhampton is a very resilient community, very community minded, but of course there’s always a small percentage that will take opportunities at other people’s troubles.”
The police are using helicopters to keep an eye on the area, alongside 60 additional officers on patrol.