Update (8 pm ET): Wilmington police have arrested five suspects after locals broke into and raided a Family Dollar store on Greenfield Street. The store, which is located near a housing project, was the center of some controversy earlier in the day after a video of several suspects fleeing from the store with armfuls of stolen goods went viral.
Police warned that they will pursue any suspects identified via camera footage "to the fullest extent of the law," according to a message posted on the Wilmington PD Facebook page. The store's management had initially asked police not to pursue charges, but after consulting with the DA, they have apparently changed their mind...
"Earlier this afternoon dozens of individuals went into the Family Dollar Store at 1318 Greenfield St and stole numerous items from the store. The looting was captured on social media and by a local news team which notified local police," the police wrote on Facebook. "When officers arrived they notified store management who did not want to pursue charges initially… After consulting the District Attorney and Family Dollar Management charges will be filed against looters. Moments ago officers arrested five individuals who broke in and looted the Dollar General at 5th & Dawson Streets. Charges are pending and those details will be released as they become available."
The town has also instituted a mandatory curfew for the area surrounding the store.
NEWS ALERT - Moments ago officers arrested five individuals who broke in and looted the Dollar General at 5th & Dawson Streets. Charges are pending and those details will be released as they become available.— Wilmington Police (@WilmingtonPD) September 15, 2018
NEWS ALERT - Wilmington Police are identifying looters who took items from a local Family Dollar Store Saturday afternoon, despite initial concerns from the store management we will charge them to fullest extent of the law.— Wilmington Police (@WilmingtonPD) September 15, 2018
In response to looting in the area, an extended curfew is now in place for the block between 13th, 14th, Greenfield and Martin Streets. This curfew went into effect at 5 pm and will remain in effect until 6 am. The citywide curfew will run from 10 pm until 6 am.— Wilmington NC (@CityofWilm) September 15, 2018
NEWS ALERT - We are aware of the looting occurring at the Family Dollar Store at 13th & Greenfield Sts, unfortunately management has asked not to intervene at this time.— Wilmington Police (@WilmingtonPD) September 15, 2018
A news crew that filmed some of the looting said they were told to stop filming by some of the looters, and that they heard gunshots, according to Raw Story.
Watch the video of the incident below:
The names of those arrested have not been released.
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Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Florence, the rash of empty properties and businesses left behind represent prime targets for criminals seeking to take advantage of the disaster conditions to pull off a few big scores. Residents of Houston endured a wave of looting during Hurricane Harvey last summer, and now it appears that a similar storm-inspired crime wave is afflicting several badly-hit counties in North Carolina.
In response, police are stepping up efforts to thwart burglaries after police in Brunswick county arrested four young men on burglary-related charges, according to the Charlotte Observer. Another suspect is being sought.
The Brunswick sheriff’s office posted on Facebook Friday morning that officers had "detained several individuals throughout the night for felony B&E," prompting sheriff John Ingram to issue a stern warning: Anybody caught looting will be locked up.
"I want to send a message to the criminal element that’s looking for that opportunity, we’re gonna do everything within our power, to be very vigilant, working with our community, and if you seek to prey upon the citizens of Brunswick County, we’re going to do everything we can to lock you up," Sheriff Ingram said. "I made sure ahead of time, that we had adequate space for anybody that wanted to try that."
The message followed reports that four people were arrested overnight in connection with break-ins of cars and a convenience store.
Dashaun Smith, 25, and Brandon Bellamy, 30, were jailed on charges of possession of burglary tools and breaking and/or entering after a break-in at Tommy’s Mini Mart in Leland, according to WWAY. Devin Harris, 21, and Justice Harris, 18, were jailed on a charge of breaking and/or entering a vehicle, the station reported.
All four mug shots were swiftly posted online by the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Brunswick isn't the only county struggling with break-ins. As the Herald pointed out, police in York and Chester counties (in in neighboring South Carolina) also warned that anyone who commits a crime during what likely will be emergency conditions for days during Hurricane Florence will "go to jail."
Any attempt during the weather conditions to commit looting, crimes of opportunity at closed businesses or homes, or scams concerning charities or the needy will be investigated and prosecuted, said South Carolina’s police and prosecutors.
"The York County Sheriff’s Office and all of the local police departments will be extremely vigilant to detect those who will attempt to criminally capitalize on the effects of this storm," York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said. "Criminals should know that during weather events such as this, law enforcement is out in full force."
Authorities warned any residents remaining in the area to swiftly report any crimes they happen to witness. Under no circumstances should citizens try to handle crimes themselves.
Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood said his officers will shuttle emergency health officials to and from Chester’s hospital, assist the elderly and special needs persons, and clear roads and assist flooding victims. But if people commit "awful and intolerable crimes of opportunity" during the emergency, Underwood said there will be "zero tolerance."
"Criminals who break the law during this time, when law enforcement is doing all it can to help the public, will go to jail," Underwood said.
Tolson and Underwood urge anyone who sees a crime to report it and let law enforcement handle it.
"Don’t try and handle it yourself," Underwood said. "Call the law."
Meanwhile, the death toll from the storm climbed to at least 5 individuals on Saturday as what is now Tropical Storm Florence slowed to a crawl. Authorities expect torrential rains to continue through the weekend, raising the likelihood of flash flooding and other disasters.