Texas Governor to Looters: You’re ‘Messing with the Wrong People’

Abbott calls for enhanced penalties for theft after storm — 'We will lock you up and put you behind bars'

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) warned potential looters that they’re “messing with the wrong people” and “will strongly regret any type of looting” while Houston is dealing with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction, speaking during an interview Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Abbott noted that “We’ve been impressed with the minimal number of looting cases in Texas” in the days since Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and other areas in southeastern Texas. Pointing to news reports indicating that the actual number of looting incidents is “virtually almost nonexistent compared to what it would be on an ordinary basis in Houston with the population base they have there,” the governor praised Texans for their post-hurricane spirit while issuing a stern warning to any potential looters.

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“There’s been only a handful of looting cases. And so Texans are taking care of Texans, making sure that we’re not preying upon others,” he said. “But also people know that Texans will take up and protect their own private property, right? And so looters are rightfully scared.”

“You’re messing with the wrong people. If you think you’re going to go on somebody’s property in Texas, then you need to be concerned,” Abbott said to prospective looters. “But I do know that when a governor declares a disaster like I have — and there were more than 50 counties in the state of Texas that were impacted by the storm — there are enhanced penalties for certain violations.”

Although the governor said he “can’t say at this moment” with certainty whether looting would be included, he said, “It should include enhanced penalties because that’s the worst of the worst.”

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“And we will lock you up and put you behind bars, and you will strongly regret any type of looting,” Abbott said.

Overall, he said, “Things are going well” in the aftermath of Harvey as the state transitions into long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

“And this is where people’s donations play such a pivotal role, [Federal Emergency Management Agency] plays such a pivotal role,” Abbott said.

The Texas governor pointed out the storm, which devastated Houston, was quite different from Hurricane Irma’s battering of Florida over the weekend because of the sheer magnitude of the flooding that ravaged southeastern Texas. Abbott compared the Houston flooding, in particular, to the flooding that occurred when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005.

“And there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of homes that have been lost, that have to be rebuilt. And so it’s going to take a long time,” he said. “But the good news is we have that typical Texas attitude. We’re going to support our fellow Americans to get it done as swiftly and effectively as possible.”

Abbott extended his gratitude for the millions of dollars of donations that poured into Texas from its own state, the rest of the nation, and the globe.

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“I’ve received phone calls from literally leaders across the entire globe who want to assist and support Texas as we build out. And I’ll tell you one reason why, and that is these images the people are able to see about Texans helping Texans, about stranger helping stranger in the most dire circumstances — it showed that the very worst of storms can bring out the very best of humanity,” said Abbott.

“And this has been an inspiration for people,” he added. “It does show that we Americans can and do come together at times of need and support each other. And we are so very thankful for what everybody is doing to help Texas out.”

As Texas braces for its long-term recovery efforts, the governor urged his people to “hold fast” to the inspiration gleaned from the images of Texans helping Texans and strangers helping strangers “as we go through the long slog of the rebuilding process.”

“We are to the point now where we do need accelerated response — we want to make sure that we get all the trailers on the ground. We need to transition people from these evacuation centers into either temporary or semi-permanent living facilities, recognizing that the places where they used to live no longer exist,” Abbott said. “And so we need to speed the process of relocating these people understanding that many of them have children who are in school, and we need to provide some sense of certainty for those children as they go through the school year.”

“And so there’s a need for speed as we speak today to make sure that we get the FEMA facilities on the ground and accelerate the speed of the delivery of the FEMA assets,” he added.

(photo credit, homepage image: World Travel & Tourism Council, Flickr; photo credit, article image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

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