COASTAL OBSERVER: Hewitt wants tougher penalty for looting


Hewitt_official_photo.jpgGeorgetown County Sheriff Lane Cribb vowed to get tough on looters as coastal residents evacuated in advance of Hurricane Florence last year. A bill filed last week by state Rep. Lee Hewitt will help police fulfill that promise.

The bill would upgrade the charge of “felony looting” to first degree burglary for crimes committed during a declared emergency. Felony looting doesn’t have a sentencing guideline. First degree burglary has a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.

“The sheriff’s office did a great job,” Hewitt said, but sentencing for the looting charges is “up to the judge to decide.”

The bill has four Horry County representatives as co-sponsors, including Alan Clemmons and Russell Fry, who are attorneys. Clemmons also chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

“If we ask you to evacuate, you ought to know that we’re doing everything in our power to protect your property,” Hewitt said.

During the evacuation from Hurricane Florence in September, there were break-ins at six homes in Pawleys Plantation. Two safes containing over $100,000 in items were stolen from one home. Coleman Tudor, 32, of Pawleys Island was arrested on 18 charges including six counts each of burglary, grand larceny and looting. The cases are still pending, according to court records.