Thieves targeting flood victims and people helping rebuild homes are ripping off tools, appliances and everything in between.
Harris County Pct. 5 Constable Ted Heap beefed up patrols. Still, he asked for help.
Constable Heap's detectives think there are two crews of burglars picking on storm victims. Pct. 5 has deputies, both uniformed and plain-clothed, dedicated to patrolling for burglars. However, they need neighbors looking out, too, Constable Heap said.
Surveillance cameras caught Arthur Douglas, 56, carrying a flat screen out a home damaged by Hurricane Harvey. He is charged with burglary.
Deputies see such crime happening more often. They report at least four burglaries of flood-damaged homes in three weeks.
“It's heartbreaking,” said Amy Yeary, a homeowner. “People have lost everything. We saw people's whole lives on the sidewalk, and it's just terrible that there are those people (stealing).”
What started with people stealing valuables left outside to dry after the storm graduated to taking contractors' tools. It happened next door to Yeary.
On South Braeswood, someone tried picking a realtor's lockbox. Neighbors also told KHOU 11 News thieves broke windows and stole an air conditioner and new appliances from homes almost ready for flood victims to move back inside.
“I am pleased with the actions of the constable,” said Jim Walters, who lives nearby. “If you're paying attention around here, you'll see them patrolling regularly.”
Constable Heap orders extra patrols after every flood and has no plans to stand down. He just needs neighbors to help.
“The best defense for something like this is neighbors,” he said. “So if you see something going on, if you see an unmarked panel truck pulling up at 11 o'clock at night, they're not dropping off a refrigerator. They're probably removing a refrigerator. So just give us a call and let us check them out.”
Neighbors know the score and sound ready to do their part.
“Everybody's got to look out for each other right now,” Yeary said.