Several state lawmakers plan on introducing a bill during the next legislative session that would change looting from a misdemeanor to a felony.
State Representatives Justin Wood, Mike Turner, Bobby Cleveland and Dan Fisher are outraged after numerous reports of looting that have occurred during the last month following devastating tornados in the Moore, Shawnee and El Reno areas.
“On May 19, my hometown was tragically affected by an EF-4 tornado that claimed two lives and damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes and businesses,” said Wood, R-Shawnee. “Everyone in my district is disgusted to see those that have lost so much being targeted by looters. But what is even more shocking is that looting is only a misdemeanor. Taking advantage of another’s tragedy is despicable and should be a felony. My colleagues and I believe Oklahomans deserve better, and I will be filing this legislation to protect those that have lost the most.”
“In a civil society, we all come to the aid of those devastated by tragedy,” added Turner, R-Edmond. “It is disgusting that some members of society view suffering as an opportunity to rob with impunity. We must send a clear message to would-be looters that harsh penalties, not a slap-on-the-wrist, await them.”
Cleveland, who represents tornado-affected areas in Newcastle, said he was shocked to learn that looting was only a misdemeanor offense.
“We've seen people come from across the country to prey upon tornado victims,” said Cleveland, R-Slaughterville. “We need to send a strong message to anyone, anywhere that even thinks about looting here in Oklahoma that they will be severely punished. This bill ensures that they will.”
“Thieves who prey on those who have been devastated by something as destructive as a tornado by robbing and looting are a scourge on our society,” said Fisher, R-El Reno “The penalty for such behavior should be swift and severe. I will be pleased to co-author this bill to protect our citizens from such wanton criminals.”
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak fully supports the effort to crack down on looters.
“At the state insurance department we have been helping thousands of Oklahomans work through the claims process and start putting their lives back together,” said Doak, R-Tulsa. “The last thing any of them need to be worried about is having what's left of their property stolen by looters.”