As many Californians evacuated from wildfires, others are accused of using the chaos to their advantage. Eight people were arrested for looting homes in Santa Cruz after residents were forced to leave due to the fire, the Santa Cruz County’s Sheriff’s Office said.
Jose Gandarilla, Susana Luna, Crystal Araujo, Sara Loretz and Crystle Parstch-Lucchesi, were arrested and face numerous charges, including looting, grand theft, conspiracy to commit crime and burglary, officials said.
And in Sonoma County, one person was arrested on suspicion of breaking into an unoccupied home, KSBW reported.
Many of the instances were caught on personal security cameras, authorities said.
Some firefighters have also seen their property allegedly stolen, reporting finding their cars looted after parking them on their way to fight the fires. Santa Cruz County authorities said a vehicle marked to clearly indicate it belonged to a firefighter was burglarized, and officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said a firefighter’s wallet was stolen and his bank account was “drained” as he was directing crews.
"To me, it’s just mind-boggling that somebody would have the audacity to do something like that,” Santa Cruz County’s Sheriff Jim Hart told reporters. "I have no empathy, I have no patience for somebody who is going to come into our community and steal from people who have been who have been evacuated and victimized and traumatized.”
Hart said looters in Santa Cruz came from both near and far, and guns were among the most looted items. Authorities said they are now doubling down on efforts to patrol evacuated areas in an attempt to curb the looting.