Yesterday Steve Trevelise tackled a subject that would stiffen penalties for towing companies and any businesses that would prey on vulnerable citizens during states of emergency.

He’d call it "Sandy’s Law"…and while I thought the intent of the proposal was good, I’m of the school of thought that preaches strict enforcement of the existing laws over creating new ones.

However, when it comes to looters, the only statues that currently applies to them upon sentencing would be those having to do with burglary, robbery, and theft.

I don’t feel that whatever penalties are ascribed for those crimes adequately address the crime of looting specifically.

Today, Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) announced legislation that would provide harsher penalties for looters during a state of emergency.

“After the devastation and destruction that so many families endured as a result of superstorm Sandy, too many people were subject to further trauma as their homes, businesses, and property faced the prospect of being looted,” said Buono. “We cannot allow anyone to prey on those hardest hit in a natural disaster like the one we just experienced.”

In the aftermath of the storm, accounts of looting in numerous New Jersey communities left many property owners feeling vulnerable, anxious and hesitant to leave areas made unsafe by the destruction wrought by Sandy.

By staying behind to protect their worldly possessions they increased the likelihood of placing themselves and their families further into harm's way.

“We’ve seen people in New Jersey lose everything in this storm,” said Buono. “And to see those same people fall prey to those who would deprive them of what little is left of their lives is not only heartbreaking but it’s simply reprehensible.”
Currently, those who loot in the aftermath of a natural disaster are subject to criminal penalties established for burglary, robbery, and theft.

Buono’s bill would establish committing those offenses during a declared state of emergency as an aggravating circumstance the court must weigh during sentencing.

"Hopefully this will help deter people from making bad decisions that just serve to make a terrible situation even worse."

It’s the aggravating circumstance part of the equation that judges would have to consider when passing sentence.

The fact that looting happens generally during times of states of emergency, and that the crime of looting isn’t as mundane as a simple break in.

It’s a harbinger of a breakdown in society; and as we’ve seen in past situations; can result on a mass scale.

I think Senator Buono is onto something…and it’s a measure I’d be willing to support.

And you?