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Sheriff, Residents Respond To Stanislaus County's Move To Charge Thieves With Looting Amid Coronavirus Crisis

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) — The Stanislaus County District Attorney announced that anyone who commits burglary or theft in the county during the coronavirus state of emergency could also be charged with looting.

The announcement came Wednesday from Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager. In a press release, Fladager said "anyone who commits a crime of burglary in the second degree, grand theft, or petty theft, in our county, during the state of emergency could be charged with looting in violation of Penal Code 463."

As of Thursday, the DA's office said they have filed 21 counts of looting during the state of emergency, 17 of which are felonies against 12 defendants. The remaining four are misdemeanor charges. The arrests came from Modesto, Turlock and Waterford.

"Criminals are criminals and obviously they don't care about the law anyway," Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said.

According to the Fladager, under the statewide emergency bail order that was put into place on Monday, bail is required to be set at $0 for most offenses except specified crimes, including looting.

Some people in Modesto we spoke to agree with the new tactic.

"We've never dealt with anything like this and I think we need to do what we need to," Roy Dewitty said. "People are having a hard enough time with losing their jobs and everything. They don't need that extra problem with people looting."

Another resident, Chris Gilbert, said, "That's when people advantage when they think they are going I get away with something."

So, defendants charged with looting will have to go before a court and cannot be automatically released on bail.

The minimum sentence for looting is three to six months in jail and can include an additional 80 to 240 hours of community service.

Dirkse told CBS13 that he thinks that this new policy will make people think twice knowing what the punishment could be.

"I think it will be helpful. I really do, which is one of the reasons why we are using it," Dirkse said. "So we need as much as we can to keep them off of the streets so they are not out there preying on the community."

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