Emergency Crime Law Passes
On March 13th, the City Council voted to pass legislation which would increase criminal fines and create civil penalties for certain offenses committed during a state of emergency and in mandatory evacuation zones – such as looting and trespassing. The bill was cosponsored by Councilmember James Oddo, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Peter Vallone.
Currently, the criminal fine for looting a home is $1,000, and no civil penalties exist.
However under the new bill the fine would be increased to $2,500 during a state of emergency and $5,000 in an evacuation zone. The newly created civil penalties would be between $1,000 and $5,000 during a state of emergency and between $5,000 and $10,000 in an evacuation zone.
Fines would be increased and civil penalties created for causing physical injury to another, trespassing, obstructing emergency response and criminal impersonation as well. Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, there were numerous reports of fraud, looting and impersonation in the evacuation areas. One victim of the storm testified during the hearing, detailing how her home was looted and others in her community were scammed by people impersonating emergency responders. Oddo has told the story of two of his constituents – a father and daughter – who lost their lives during Hurricane Sandy by drowning, because they were afraid to leave their home after it was looted during Hurricane Irene. “During and after Hurricane Sandy, the majority of New Yorkers banded together and helped their neighbors in need – but some saw the devastation as an opportunity for personal gain. This law will help make sure these crooks think twice before they act again and are punished more severely if they do,” said Vallone.