Before Florence, SC police worried about looting, thefts. Here’s what happened

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Worries about looting, theft, and break-ins prior to Hurricane Florence apparently were unfounded.

Law enforcement agencies in the Pee Dee and along the coast say hardly any upswing in crime was detected in the hurricane’s aftermath.

Mikayla Moskov of the Horry County Police Department, in one of the counties most directly by Florence and the most populated, said the situation is “fairly regular” there. The police department has not received a single confirmed report of looting.

While Horry authorities have taken more calls from citizens reporting suspicious activity and possible break-ins, the uptick in reports haven’t amounted to confirmed crimes, Moskov said.

“We certainly did put out the message that we were out here protecting people and our property,” Moskov said.

The situation is much the same in the Pee Dee and Georgetown County.

As the Hurricane Florence emergency response ramped up, Gov. Henry McMaster warned several times in news conferences that crime would not be tolerated and would be punished to the full extent of the law.

Pee Dee and coastal law enforcement had a similar message.

“The sheriff was very clear that he was going to deal with it (crime during or after Florence) very harshly,” said Jason Lesley, spokesperson for Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. “We had people on the roads around the clock.”

No looting or other property crimes have been reported since Florence moved through, Lesley says. That’s normally the case.

Having worked in Georgetown since 2000, Lesley says, “After a storm, looting has really never been a story here.”

But the county wasn’t comletely spared. While the county was being evacuated before the storm, six homes were broken into in the gated golf community of Pawley’s Plantation, according to police reports. In one case, a victim claimed a safe was stolen containing $100,000 in items and $20,000 in cash, and in another report, three handguns were reported stolen. The six incidents are being treated as related, Lesley says.

In North Carolina, some looting and stealing broke out after Florence hit the Tar Heel state. In Brunswick County, North Carolina, authorities charged four people with breaking into cars and a convenience store. The suspects were “taking advantage of vulnerabilities during this storm,” authorities said.

In nearby Wilmington, N.C., a Family Dollar was looted. People were seen in video and photographs carrying out items like juice, cleaning supplies, a case of water, and other items.

Store managers asked Wilmington Police not to intervene but the cops later said, “despite initial concerns from the store management we will charge them (people who looted) to fullest extent of the law.”

Back in South Carolina, officials in Darlington, Florence and Dillon counties also said they had no upswing in crime following the storm.

Pierre Brewton of the Upstate Incident Management Team, which is working in Dillon County, said places outside of South Carolina have suffered increased crime after storms, but not South Carolina.

The way to tamp down people’s temptation to steal or loot after storms is to plan for criminal intent.

“The local law enforcement did really well putting out the word that they would have local officers and other officers from other areas traveling and patrolling to maintain safety,” Brewton said.