HPD Chief Art Acevedo warns looters ahead of Hurricane Laura

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020
HPD chief warns looters ahead of Hurricane Laura
Is looting worth going to prison for 20 years? This is what happened in the days after Harvey and why posting your evacuation plans on social media doesn't help.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Ahead of Hurricane Laura's landfall, Houston police chief Art Acevedo is sending the message now that looting won't be tolerated.

Acevedo warned in a series of tweets Tuesday morning that, "Although you may not see us, we will have eyes on stores, gun stores, pharmacies, etc. We will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of our community and will move quickly to arrest scofflaws."

Acevedo continued, saying that the Harris County District Attorney's Office will be "staffed up as well to hold violators accountable."

Acevedo is not the only one warning about looting.

Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman shared a message on Facebook urging residents who evacuate not to post their plans on social media.

"Do not invite the criminal element to your property by advertising you'll be gone for a while," Herman wrote.

In the days following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, looters stole nearly 100 firearms from Houston-area stores, federal government officials said.

The thefts happened in spite of preventative measures taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as Harvey approached. The agency notified local licensed firearms dealers regarding the risk of firearm theft following natural disasters and advised them on best practices to secure inventory.

ATF also partnered with Houston police to provide around-the-clock security to stores that sell firearms once Harvey hit.

At least one person was convicted of looting about eight months after Harvey. Thomas Gamelin was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of stealing televisions and cigarettes from a Walmart on Silber Road during the height of the storm.

Gamelin was on parole for a drug conviction when he was convicted of taking more than $5,000 worth of loot.

As for Hurricane Laura, Acevedo said HPD will be working closely with federal, state and local partners to respond to all threats.

Laura is projected to make landfall late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning.