Looters continue to plague communities hit hard by Hurricane Irma. On Wednesday, another arrest was made when police noticed two men with a utility pole strapped to the top of a vehicle in Jacksonville, days after the storm ravaged the city.
Police all over Florida are working overtime to catch and deter thieves who are damaging property and impeding recovery efforts. More than 50 looters have been arrested in the Miami area. Among the suspects was a group of 26 individuals who broke into a Wal-Mart store as a group.
In Fort Lauderdale, a group of at least eight people was caught on camera breaking into and stealing merchandise from an athletic gear store.
In Jacksonville on Wednesday, the sheriff’s office tweeted a picture of two shirtless men–sitting handcuffed on a sidewalk–who were caught trying to steal the utility pole. In a tweet, the office wrote: “These two were caught stealing a JEA pole just this morning! Citizens watching out and officers cleaning up = partnership! #Irma #JSO.”
— Jax Sheriff’s Office (@JSOPIO) September 13, 2017
Police said 42-year-old Blake Lee Waller and 46-year-old Victor Walter Apeler were arrested on grand theft charges. Someone had reported seeing them load the pole onto a sports utility vehicle, while reportedly an officer had also noticed a light pole missing from an area on top of a bridge. That officer later spotted a vehicle driving with the pole on top. He stopped the vehicle and arrested the men.
According to the police report, Apeler told investigators he was moving the pole because it was on the ground, close to traffic lanes. Fox News has reported that a database search found Apeler had 72 scrap metal-related transactions for recycling since January.
Police departments across the state have adamantly warned against looting, saying looters will be prosecuted. Many have taken to Twitter, to warn against criminal activity and highlight arrests.
ATTENTION LOOTERS; Every incident will be investigated. Evidence collected will be used to pursue charges after the fact. #HurrcaneIrma
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) September 10, 2017
Any looters who come to Pembroke Pines will be greeted by our officers. Choose wisely and stay home. https://t.co/9ETgZKgYla
— Pembroke Pines PD (@PPinesPD) September 10, 2017
— Fort Lauderdale PD (@FLPD411) September 11, 2017
Have you seen this man? He was LOOTING a business during a State of Emergency. Anyone with information call Crime Stoppers 1-800-458-TIPS pic.twitter.com/TttcESxQhY
— PBSO (@PBCountySheriff) September 13, 2017
— MLJ-MEDIA.COM (@mlj_media_llc) September 11, 2017
Florida officials are still working hard to restore power statewide. According to the latest estimates on Thursday morning, 2.6 million customers, roughly 25 percent of the state, were still without power. Two days ago, 15-million people were still without power.
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