People caught taking or damaging the property of others without authorization during a declared state of emergency may be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange lauded the passage of the bill as “a fitting tribute to the victims who suffered and struggled through the devastating tornadoes that struck Alabama one year ago.” He had advocated a tough law to specifically criminalize looting.
We’re pleased to see the law pass, but we hope that’s not the end of legislative action in response to last year’s disastrous tornadoes.
Gov. Bentley created the Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama, which issued a report with a plan for preparing for dangerous storms in the future.
At the top of their list of preparations were ideas for increasing the number of storm shelters and safe rooms, and for publicizing their locations so that people would know where to go when a dangerous storm is approaching.
Three parts of the plan stand out: increasing the number of storm shelters available to the public; offering incentives to add safe rooms to new construction and existing homes and businesses; and working with industry to require that community storm shelters be included at any new apartment complexes and mobile home communities, and offering incentives to add them to existing facilities.
It’s easy, cheap and politically popular to pass new laws to get tough on crime. We thought it was already illegal to steal or damage other people’s property, but we don’t mind the passage of the looting legislation.
However, we think a more fitting tribute to the victims of last year’s tornadoes would be to move toward minimizing the number of victims the next time tornadoes or hurricanes strike our state.