Some New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation in response to looting in towns where residents were evacuated because of Hurricane Sandy.
A measure proposed by three Republican lawmakers would increase penalties for looting, robbery and trespassing committed during a state of emergency.
Sen. Kevin O’Toole says the looting at storm-damaged homes added to evacuees’ distress.
“In our state’s most fragile and difficult moments people were losing their homes, their entire properties, their estates,” said O’Toole, R-Essex.
Then looters “pick like vultures in their homes and take out some jewelry and some appliances,” he said. “It’s really despicable.”
Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, is proposing similar legislation.
Sen. Donald Norcross, chairman of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, says there are already laws on the books dealing with looting that should be enforced, but he’s willing to consider measures to close any gaps in the law.
“Looting is already a crime but if you’re the one who’s a victim, you want your elected officials to do something about it,” said Norcross, D-Camden. “What we’re going to do is hold hearings and find out if there are issues or gaps in those laws that we need to address.”