The Buffalo Police Department launched an anti-looting unit that has already made eight arrests in the wake of a deadly winter storm that buried the city in snow over the Christmas weekend.
“This isn’t people stealing food and medicine and diapers. They are destroying stores. They are stealing televisions, couches, whatever else they can get their hands on. They’re opportunists,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“All you’re doing is destroying the resource you have when you need to go to the store again and buy food or whatever else that you need. You’re destroying your community. It will not be tolerated.”
Police are rolling out plainclothes detectives as part of the new anti-looting unit and partnering with the Erie County District Attorney in their efforts, according to Gramaglia. The city is also under a driving ban with military members called in to help enforce the rule.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown skewered looters on Monday, saying that “these aren’t even people in distress.”
“People who are out looting when people are losing their lives in this harsh winter storm is just absolutely reprehensible,” Brown said. “I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror. They are the lowest of the low.”
More than 5 feet of snow fell on parts of Buffalo, burying homes, cars and stores throughout the city and the rest of Erie County.
The death toll in Buffalo alone rose to 31 on Tuesday, with more deceased individuals expected to be found as cars are uncovered. A driving ban remained in effect as emergency services worked to clear roads.
Temperatures are expected to rise through the end of the week, potentially causing minor flooding as snow melts, according to the National Weather Service.