Scores of Twitter users have flooded the social networking site announcing their plans to go on looting sprees once Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, as the New York National Guard announced it would put troops on duty in Long Island to prevent such activity.
1,175 New York National Guard troops have been mobilized to “provide command and control and logistical support” in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier. According to NBC New York, the troops will also be on hand to “protect against looting.”
They might well be needed given the fact that a deluge of Twitter users are using the website to appeal to others to join them in exploiting the chaos generated by the superstorm to ransack stores.
Given the recent phenomenon of “flash mob robberies,” where groups of people arrange to burgle a store en masse in order to overwhelm security and staff, the tweets should be taken seriously. Last year police warned that flash mob robberies, organized mainly through Twitter, were on the rise.
“Of 129 retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation, nearly 95 percent said they were victimized by organized criminals in the past year and 85 percent said the problem has worsened over the past three years,” reports Fox News.
In addition, much of the rioting and looting which rocked England last year was also incited, organized and coordinated via Twitter. At one point, Prime Minister David Cameron considered slapping a ban on the social network.
Examples of tweets from individuals planning to go on looting sprees include the following;
“Bout to do some looting when this hurricane finally hits….gonna get a new laptop and tv…this hurricane might be the best thing to happen.” (SOURCE)
“If this hurricane gets real bad I’m looting stores ! i always wanted to do that.” (SOURCE)
“I’m gonna go looting once this hurricane hits Utica.” (SOURCE)
“Has #HurricaneSandy made landfall yet? My bitch ass is ready to go looting!” (SOURCE)
“helllll yeah I’m gonna go looting after the storm hits.” (SOURCE)
“Who wants to go looting with me when Sandy hits?! I need some new shit! (SOURCE)
Read more examples below.
Many of the tweets are written in such a way as to suggest that looting under such circumstances is justifiable. None of the tweets express any concern at a law enforcement or National Guard response.
Looters habitually hijack hurricanes and other extreme weather events to carry out their criminal acts. During Hurricane Katrina, the practice became so commonplace that police officers were ordered not to stop citizens from ransacking stores. Police were also caught on camera looting a Wal-Mart store but got away with it by claiming “they had received permission from superiors to take necessities for themselves and other officers.”
Commentators are already expressing fears that widespread looting is almost inevitable when the “Frankenstorm” hits later tonight.
“It’s all anecdotal at this point, but if crime reports following hurricanes Katrina and Irene are any indication, the East Coast is in for a crime wave, post-Sandy,” writes Business Insider’s Abby Rogers.
As we reported last week, supporters of Barack Obama are also flooding Twitter with threats to riot and stoke racial violence if Mitt Romney wins the election.
The threats prompted the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to announce that they were monitoring the situation. The Secret Service also encouraged other Twitter users to “self police” the social media website and report offensive tweets directly to the agency.