Looters, inmates, and rising waters

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To some, looting and natural disasters go hand in hand. In the case of Hurricane Harvey the City of Houston and surrounding areas aren’t taking any chances. City officials are going after looters who are taking advantage of the massive floods throughout the waterlogged metropolis.
The neighboring county’s District Attorney’s Office (Montgomery County) is warning everyone who might be so brazen to loot businesses and homes: looters, thieves or burglars caught victimizing area residents will be arrested and served up mandatory jail time, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“(District Attorney Brett) Ligon announced today that his office will seek prison or jail time in each and every forthcoming case where the defendant stands charged with theft (looting), burglary, robbery, or any similar crime committed during Hurricane Harvey,” the DA’s office posted on Facebook. “Leniency and probation will be off the table for these offenses committed during this time.”

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took to Twitter to say, “To crooks out there, be warned! No looting & burglaries. We will not have it. My jail is open and you will be arrested & charged.”

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo echoed Gonzalez’s thoughts Monday on Good Morning America  by saying, “We’ve already arrested a handful of looters. We’ve made it real clear to our community, we’re going to do whatever it takes to protect their homes and their businesses.”

While area law enforcement is making sure citizens aren’t looting and committing crime, two more Houston-area prisons evacuated as the waters continued to rise. 1,400 inmates at the Vance and Jester 3 prisons we’re loaded onto buses in the Houston suburb of Richmond, to be relocated temporarily in others facilities outside the flooded areas. An estimated 6,000 inmates from five regional prisons have been relocated.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure everybody’s safe while the evacuation process is being carried out,” said Robert Hurst, a public information officer with the criminal justice department, at the time the evacuation was taking place.

“Many of the streets in Houston have severe flooding right now, so this evacuation will be logistically challenging,” said Jason Clark, spokesman for Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

All five prisons, which house only men, are located near the Brazos River, and the department decided to evacuate as water levels rose near the units. To three of the prisons, this is nothing new. Terrell, Stringfellow and Ramsey prisons were evacuated last year during another flooding situation. Last year’s flooding was nowhere near the historic flooding in the past few days, with rain still falling in some areas.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane Friday night and was downgraded to a tropical storm. A tropical storm may not sound as dangerous, but heavy rains and serious flooding has torn through southeast Texas.

If you have family members or friends who are incarcerated in the Houston area, the department has a 24 hour hotline to get information on where they have been relocated to. Call 936-437-4927 or 844-476-1289.

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