State News

Fayetteville police urge vigilance to stop looting

Posted April 25, 2011 6:50 a.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2011 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Fayetteville residents whose homes sustained heavy tornado damage have been urged to remove all valuables after at least three homes on one storm-ravaged street were looted over the weekend.

Thieves took tools, electronics, jewelry and other items late Saturday from homes on Bromley Drive in the Summerhill East neighborhood, which was among the areas hit hardest by an April 16 tornado that cut through Cumberland County.

"It's devastation after devastation for people," said Nicole Foley, who owns a couple of homes on the street, including one that was vandalized. "Somebody takes advantage. (It's) people without any heart."

Gabriel Delagarza had gone to Florida to take a break after the storm, but he cut his vacation short after getting a phone call Sunday.

"Happy Easter. By the way, the house you're living in got vandalized," Delagarza recalled hearing on the phone.

"They pretty much stole everything they could get their hands on," he said after looking through the house Monday. "They take advantage of you at your lowest moment."

Fayetteville police have responded to seven cases of looting in storm-damaged areas. The other four incidents occurred on Northampton Road, Summer Hill Road, Dornoch Drive and Hawfield Drive. Another break-in was reported on the north side of Fayetteville that police said also appears to be storm-related.

Although police said officers would continue to be visible in the damaged neighborhoods, they have closed a command center that was set up on nearby Yadkin Road after the storms. Also, a 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. curfew that has been in place for a week expired Monday.

Sgt. Todd Joyce said it's nearly impossible to prevent all looting in storm-struck neighborhoods, especially at night.

"It's a crime of opportunity. They may be in and out after we've already ridden through an area. So, we'll do the best we can to stay highly visible," Jones said.

Some residents asked police to keep up added patrols to help curb looting.

"They don’t need to be winding down because it’s gonna take months (to recover)," Foley said.

Landlord John Kuespert said he thinks the Fayetteville Police Department should have requested assistance from the National Guard.

"They've done an incredible job, but I think it's become too much for them," Kuespert said of local officers.

Kenny Currie, Cumberland County’s emergency management director, said the city had security covered and noted that local officials can tap the National Guard only when all local resources are exhausted.

If events warrant, the city can impose another curfew and further enhance police presence, Joyce said. Until then, police recommended that residents form community watch groups to report all suspicious activity.