Reports of looting stun Kokomo residents after tornadoes

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KOKOMO, Ind. -- Families devastated by the Kokomo tornadoes are now shocked to see looters coming through their neighborhoods.

In the middle of the afternoon Monday, some people cleaning up from the storm looked down the street and saw two people sifting through piles in other people’s front yards, filling an already-packed truck bed.

“We kind of hated to leave our homes even if we couldn’t stay, because we knew it would happen,” said Beth Langston. “We just know people think, ‘Hey, it’s a good opportunity. Let’s try it.’ They don’t care.”

Police stopped and talked to the two, who said there are “junkers.” They were let off with a warning for trespassing and told they’d be arrested next time.

Neighbors believe the junkers are just some of the many who see electronics and appliances sitting without a watchful owner and see an opportunity.

“I just can’t believe they would do it in broad daylight when something bad like this has happened to somebody,” said Langston. “Obviously they’ve never been through anything like this.”

Her neighbor Clyde Smith echoed that sentiment.

“It’s pathetic, you know?” asked Smith. “It’s not like we’re not hurting enough. Then somebody tries to take what we do have. It’s just not right.”

Many here have homes too damaged to stay in, so they can’t always keep an eye on their valuables.

“My family, we’re staying in Lafayette because the hotels were full here, so I’m counting on the police and neighbors that are here, to kind of watch my stuff,” said Smith.

Police say that they're only receiving a few reports each day. With help from sheriff’s deputies, they have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood.

“If you don’t belong in these neighborhoods, we’re going to find out who you are and only those people that are residents of the neighborhood are going to be allowed to go back in,” said Major Brian Seldon.

Smith says he saw people stopped for looting, and doesn’t want to hate them for it. He just hopes they learn how they’ve hurt already devastated people.

“Even the gentlemen who was stealing, they were stealing for a reason,” says Smith. “Either they don’t have or they can’t get and you know, they need prayed for too and hopefully they’ll get the help they need and be better for it.”

If you see anyone you believe might be stealing from storm-damaged neighborhoods, call police. Increased patrols will continue throughout the cleanup effort, which could take a couple more weeks.

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