Oklahoma Lawmakers Work To Make Looting A Felony Offense
MOORE, Oklahoma - Looting could soon become a felony in Oklahoma.
It was a problem in the aftermath of our deadly tornado outbreak last May. Right now, the crime is only a misdemeanor and victims say that's just slap on the wrist.
A bill to make looting a felony passed through the Senate with ease Tuesday. Instead of fine, if you're caught looting, you could face up to seven years behind bars.
"Somebody pulled up in a truck and a trailer and started loading up stuff," said Moore resident, Tony McGee.
At the time, entire neighborhoods were leveled and Moore and Oklahoma City police were working over time trying to keep looters out.
"That's why the checkpoints were set up to maintain who's getting in and not getting in," said OCPD spokesperson, Capt. Dexter Nelson on May 30, 2013.
"Well, it seemed like it was pretty hard for the homeowner to get in, but apparently not for the looters," said McGee.
McGee says dining room furniture, TV's and other personal family items were taken from his ravaged home days after the storm. According to police, at least five people were accused of disturbing a disaster area in Moore after the deadly May 20 tornado. That includes one who was accused of stealing morphine from the damaged area.
"Well, it's very frustrating when you see looters and they're caught and the most they can be prosecuted for is a misdemeanor," said Republican Sen. Anthony Sykes of Moore.
The Oklahoma Senate approved Sykes bill 36 to 1. He says he created it specifically for situations like this.
"The bill affects those areas that have been declared a disaster area," said Sykes.
"We actually had a couple of them that were helping us move stuff around in the house, and then we see them a couple days later on the news that they were arrested," said McGee.
The bill to make looting a felony will now head to the full House for consideration.