Looters ransacked and damaged upstate New York businesses over the weekend as deadly extreme winter weather and low temperatures froze local authorities from performing regular patrols.
New York State Police reportedly responded to claims across social media that some businesses had their windows smashed and merchandise damaged and stolen in the City of Buffalo as at least 27 have been reported dead in New York alone after a massive snowstorm.
Local media reported that such stores include all Wegmans and Tops locations in Erie County, which have been closed since Friday due to the “once in a generation” storm.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told reporters Monday the looters taking advantage of the unsupervised stores were “the lowest of the low.”
“I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror,” Mayor Brown said.
Brown added that the people who were out looting when others lost their lives in the harsh winter storm were “absolutely reprehensible.”
“And from some of the pictures that we’ve seen on social media of these looters, they’re not looting foods and medicines, they’re just looting items that they want,” the mayor said. “So these aren’t even people in distress — these are people who are taking advantage of a national disaster and the suffering of many in our community to take what they want.”
Two civilians spoke to a local NBC affiliate about the recent looting.
“It’s not about a need,” one source said. “It was a storm for one day — it’s not about a need.”
“Exactly,” the other source said. “They took TV sets.
New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli told local media authorities were dispatched to two confirmed reports of looting incidents.
“Those are still under investigation as we speak,” Nigrelli said. “Those are isolated incidents, and it’s not reflective of the great community of Western New York, and I’m sure that they’ll be limited to those two incidents — or at least that’s our hope.”
Local media reported City Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said authorities had made a “few” arrests related to looting over the weekend.
“We’ve been able to — throughout the storm — transition our patrol officers to get back [to] their patrol efforts while we have our search and rescue recovery teams that are going out and doing the very difficult work of recovering bodies,” Gramaglia said, according to The New York Post.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement regarding price gouging, yet another side effect of the once-in-a-century winter storm, as reported by local media.
“Price gouging is illegal, “Hochul said. “We have the attorney general’s office and our state is prepared to investigate any complaints of price gouging. Those who engage in this disgusting practice at a time when people in our community are hurting, when they’re trying so hard to get basic necessities, there’s a scarcity because stores have been closed since Friday, then shame on them. And they’re going to meet the law in a way they probably didn’t encounter. We’re going to be going after them.”
“The Department of Financial Services is engaging the insurance industry,” Hochul added, “making sure we have claims adjusters on the ground to help people who’ve had damage. Whether it’s the weight of snow on their roofs, whether it’s water damage … we want to make sure people know we’ll get help to them as soon as possible.”
New York officials implemented travel bans in Buffalo and surrounding areas, urging drivers to stay off the roads for emergency services to have a clear and passable route.
Hochul further noted that anyone whole violates the law “will be ticketed,” while members of the National Guard will be stopping drivers in areas where bans are in place.