Disaster recovery expert Professor David Sanderson said that claims of widespread theft were “really overrated”.
“It [looting] can happen and it’s a tragedy when it does happen. There are cases of it in disaster response, but the overwhelming response is people coming together,” he said.
The Commissioner’s comments come after police launched Operation Piper in the state’s fire-ravaged South Coast “to focus on property theft and criminal activity, providing a high-visibility police presence and saturating fire-affected towns” on the weekend.
“Police searched 43 people and conducted 18 vehicle searches, with seven people issued move-on directions, 20 issued with traffic or court infringement notices for various offences, seven were found to be in possession of illegal drugs, and five businesses inspected,” police said in a release that also said they would maintain a high-visibility presence “to ensure the community can safely return to their homes and businesses without the added worry or pressure of looting and illegal activity taking place”.
More than 20 people across the state have died this bushfire season, which has also seen several arrests in relation to alleged looting of evacuated property.
Police have charged several individuals in relation to suspected looting in the wake of bushfires in regional areas. Those charges relate to include allegations of looting local businesses or homes.