(UnitedVoice.com) – Wildfires in the west are causing citizens to take matters into their own hands. An Oregon sheriff reported armed groups are patrolling fire evacuation zones and illegally stopping drivers at gunpoint.
During a September 13 press conference, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts briefed members of the media about the situation. According to Roberts, armed individuals are stopping drivers as part of a well-intentioned effort to protect property.
However, as the sheriff explained, this effort presents a few problems. First of all, it’s “illegal” to stop someone at gunpoint. Second, many of the people entering those communities are residents attempting to salvage more of their belongings.
“The last thing I want to see is something tragically happen” as a result of “someone overreacting” to someone lawfully retrieving their possessions, Roberts added.
Sheriff Roberts also told reporters widespread panic had consumed many of the county’s residents regarding the origins of the fires and potential looting. Several residents in hard-hit parts of the county posted signs in their yards warning potential offenders.
Devin Eskew, the lead photographer for Fox 12 Oregon, posted photos of several signs warning wannabe looters and arsons. “You loot, we shoot!” a sign in one photograph showed.
Another photo showed an American flag and a sign warning, “Looters will be shot.”
— Devin Eskew (@Devin_Eskew) September 12, 2020
Sadly, criminal activity has accompanied the four active wildfires sweeping through Clackamas County. The sheriff’s office reported over the weekend that deputies responded to hundreds of calls in the county’s worst-hit areas, most of them involving “suspicious vehicles” and concerns regarding “potential burglaries.”
As a result, the sheriff’s office set up a series of four security roadblocks manned by deputies along state highways accessing residential areas impacted by the wildfires.
As Fox News reported, there’s cause for alarm. One individual was arrested twice within 12 hours for allegedly confessing to using Molotov cocktails to start brush fires in a neighboring county.
While it’s commendable that well-intentioned citizens have taken up arms to protect property, it’s usually best to leave law-enforcement efforts in trained professionals’ hands. As Sheriff Roberts pointed out, no one wants to see innocent citizens harmed due to a misunderstanding.
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