Understanding the looting problem

People looting a shopping center.

Why do people loot?

It seems incredible that anyone could be so heartless that one would loot the possessions of a disaster victim. Yet, whenever there is a disaster in any part of the world, there usually are some individuals who resort to looting."

They come to the disaster area with rescue workers but, unlike the rescuers who unselfishly work to help, they come to steal what few possessions the disaster victims have left.

Not even the dead are respected by looters. Bodies are usually found with their pockets emptied and even at times ring finger cut off.

For this reason governments have to post police officers to prevent looting.

Sadly though, in some cases, incidents of looting are done by those supposed to be protecting the damaged property. Of course, the police generally prevent looting instead of doing it.

Looting appears to be more widespread during wartime than in peace times, because a government is less able to supply armed guards for patrolling ruined buildings during war.

It been discovered that persons who ordinarily were law abiding people had become hardened looters, especially after losing their own possessions by bombings, they prey on everyone else.

Revolutions, political uprising and mass demonstrations are also occasions when ordinary people turn to pillaging possessions of others.

The feeling of abandonment that accompanies these violent political demonstrations provides cover for the stealing by hardened criminals, but can also make ordinary citizens join in with these thieves in smashing stores windows and looting stores of merchandise.

A mob usually gives no thought to the injury that it is doing to do to the unfortunate store owners.

In the heat of the mob emotionalism, respect for property as well as for law and order often vanishes. Some people seem to think it is the thing to do if they can get away it.

Although, grinding poverty might be given as a reason why some persons will loot disasters ruined homes and stores, but not all poor people become looters.

Personal moral standards have much to do with whether a person will engage in looting or not.

 When those standards are exceedingly low, what is there to restrain one from looting what belongs to others?

It was reported that in one of the riots, looting became an “eerie carnival atmosphere” as jolly looters dashed in and out of shattered shop windows carrying their booty away.

 It is not as though these looters were needy persons, for a check of the looters showed that, of 115 arrested by the police, 105 had good jobs and late-model autos.

Nor could the looting be termed solely a racial protest, because among the looters were white persons, and stores owned by Negroes were also looted by Negroes.

Although public officials might, at times, decline to interfere promptly in acts of looting, they usually do not permit it to go for very long.

They well know that it is like a fire that can spread rapidly, destroying all law and order.


Truly, times of crisis can expose publicly just what is in people’s hearts. This makes it appropriate to ask of yourself, what would you do is times of disasters?

Would you have looked out for the interests of other persons, responding to their needs?

Or, would you have thought just about your own welfare and that of a few close acquaintances, perhaps rushing home without checking on what you might do to help out in the emergency?

 Worse still, would you have help yourself to the possessions of others, without thinking about the hurt you were causing store owners and your neighbors?

How ingrained coveting is in human nature, can be seen from the fact that a child seems to be instinctively covetous.

Any desirable thing he sees he immediately wants to grasp. He must be trained, disciplined, so as to appreciate that there is such a thing as private ownership. Hence, one must be taught to respect the rights and possessions of others

Whether looting is done during a political demonstration, during a revolution or disaster, it is morally wrong.
Thus, it makes each person his own moral policeman, as it were, putting himself on guard against this basic selfish tendency.

One should not be like ruthless brute beast that thinks of nothing but preying on its unfortunate victim.

Our personal standards should help us respect other people’s property not merely because authorities will punish us for looting, but because it is right and good.