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Disaster Looting, Fact or Fiction?

In the wake of massive disasters, fears about crime and other forms of disorder usually rise. However, while some people do take advantage of the collective distraction, the fear of crime — particularly looting — typically outstrips the reality, said experts who study storms and recoveries.[1] According to a report from the University of Delaware, looting is rare — an exception to the rule of communities’ pro-social responses to disaster. Despite fears to the contrary, disaster triggers altruism and cooperation while suppressing criminal behavior.[2]

If individuals are more likely to help their neighbor, why the over-inflated perception of looting? Within minutes of Hurricane Florence beginning it’s battering of the Carolina’s, news outlets were already picking up stories of looting.[3] Unfortunately, I think that a good part of the blame lies with our preferences. We would much rather hear about people doing bad stuff as opposed to a neighbor sharing his water with those on their street.

If the outlets where we receive our information would focus on providing more accurate warnings, placing an emphasis on the shared experience of those dealing with the event, and an honest look at the actions of the community, I believe that the notion that looting is prevalent during a disaster could be dealt with.




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