DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday it will seek enhanced penalties for anyone caught looting in tornado-ravaged areas of Dallas County.
The DA’s Office said several people have already been arrested for stealing from homes and buildings hardest hit by as many as ten tornadoes that struck on the night of Sunday, October 20.
The DA’s Office is using a new Texas law that went into effect on September 1 that seeks harsher punishment for crimes like burglary, assaults, and robberies, committed in disaster areas.
“Our Legislators in Austin got it right. They gave us some powerful tools to protect victims of disasters that we intend on using when appropriate,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Withers.
The enhancement goes into effect anytime the president, the governor, or county judge or mayor declares a state of disaster.
A burglary of a building normally carries a range of punishment between 180 days and two years confinement. However, under the new enhancement rule, a burglary of a building committed in a disaster zone can be punished between two and ten years in prison.
If the burglary is of a home located in a disaster area, an individual now faces anywhere between five years to life in prison. The sentence for the same crime before September 1 was two to twenty years.
“The District Attorney’s Office is using this new enhancement law to help people who have already been victimized by a devastating tornado, or other disaster, from becoming victimized again by looters,” said Jason Hermus, Chief of Division C and the Community Response Team.