Ike: The perfect storm for burglars

November 24, 2008 4:26:34 PM PST
A storm that roared ashore in the middle of the night, it was the perfect cover for thieves willing to kick someone while they were down. And now, we're learning for the first time how many burglaries were committed when our city was left powerless in the hours after Hurricane Ike. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

While Houston homeowners and businesses were getting their first look at Hurricane Ike's aftermath, it appears burglars were hard at work.

A washateria in southeast Houston is still boarded up. The damage there wasn't caused by Ike, but by crooks who used the blackouts caused by the storm to their advantage.

Delia Santillan, an employee, told us in Spanish that they broke a window and stole their cash register. It was not an isolated incident. Several stores, including a pawn shop nearby, were targeted, too.

"Most of our businesses didn't have backup alarms to alert us that their businesses were being broken into," said Sgt. Holland Jones with the Pct 7 Harris County Constable's Office.

Using our exclusive CrimeTracker, we could see just how widespread the burglaries were on the day Hurricane Ike hit. Cases were reported all across Houston. Two-hundred-and-twenty-four break-ins were reported on that one day alone in spite of the dusk until dawn curfew.

"They are no surprise to us at all," said John Cannon with the Houston Police Department. "That's because the day after the storm, we made five times as many arrests for burglaries than we would in any given day throughout the year."

Our Crimetracker found that wasn't the worst of it. September 12, the night Ike hit, had the highest number of burglaries. There were 345 reported cases, followed by 259 on the September 11 and 224 on the September 13.

Santillan told us the owner of their washateria that was targeted paid customers back for the clothes stolen from the dry cleaner. She says whoever did it has not been caught. And while the chances may be slim, she is hopeful.

Some law officers think the number of break-ins reported during and after Ike may be even higher. It's just that people failed to report them.

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