Surely we all can agree that the first priority in the aftermath of a devastating mega-disaster is very clear: looting must be severely punished, even if the heavens fall.
That’s why we should celebrate the upcoming fifth anniversary of the 15 year prison sentence Judge Hans Liljeberg bestowed upon two looters who lifted warm beer and wine coolers from an empty supermarket in Kenner, six days after Katrina. Liljeberg said he wanted to “send a message” to potential looters.
Amen! If only a New York City judge had had the courage to make national news with a similarly extreme sentence for some of the 60 people arrested for looting after 9/11, then perhaps New Orleans would’ve suffered less pillaging after the Federal Flood.
Unfortunately, since looters are such a devious and persistent lot, we can’t solely rely on judicial messages, however draconian. I think our “zero tolerance” policy towards looting — endlessly reiterated by Mayors, Governors and Presidents after Katrina — is still too soft. We need to get even more medieval.
The time has arrived, I believe, for a “Sub-Zero tolerance” for looting, or even a “Super Intolerance” for looting. Maybe those labels mean the same thing. I don’t know. I’ll ask my editors to configure an online poll to determine which name sounds like the most threatening deterrent.
Either way, I think we need to get proactive in apprehending looters, instead of just waiting around for them to strike. That’s why, with hurricane season just two weeks old, I want to propose an innovative anti-looting strategy to the law enforcement entities throughout Greater New Orleans. We need plain-clothes officers stationed in waiting rooms, bars, and any other place where there’s a TV in public view. They need to bide their time until, say, Bob Breck comes on to do the weather report. When Breck reminds viewers that 2011 is expected to be a particularly busy hurricane season, these undercover anti-looting teams can scan the audience for anyone who stands up and cheers, “Oh, goody goody! Can’t wait to swipe all the free warm wine coolers after the hurricanes pass through!”
Then we must move swiftly to arrest these pernicious hurricane celebrants for conspiracy to loot, and any other applicable charge, and haul them to the slammer. Make the NOPD “Batmobile” dual-purpose, if need be. Just get these potential menaces off the streets before the storms come, rather than after. It’s a smart move. Zero tolerance for shoddy levees? How quaintly 2006. We have a higher priority: Zero tolerance for looting.
In other news, Former Kenner City Councilmember Keith Baroni “looted” the U.S. Navy of over $120,000 in bogus contracts, some of which were in force after 9/11, when the nation was at war. He was sentenced to 366 days.
Also, The Times-Picayune reports that Mark St. Pierre was granted bond after being convicted on “53 federal counts of bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.” Federal guidelines suggest a 10 year sentence. The current over/under is for 11 years.