BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said multiple arrests have been made after people were found looting stores in the aftermath of the blizzard.
“Our officers have responded to several reports,” Gramaglia said Monday. “We have made a few arrests, we have intervened in some of those. We have assisted at least one location that I’m aware of in getting a store boarded up.”
Many stores, including all Wegmans and Tops locations in Erie County, have been closed since Friday due to the “once in a generation” storm that brought the region to a standstill over the holiday weekend. But Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said evidence seen on social media indicates looters are not merely taking essential items.
“People who are out looting when people are losing their lives in this harsh winter storm is just absolutely reprehensible,” Brown said. “I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror. They are the lowest of the low.
“And from some of the pictures that we’ve seen on social media of these looters, they’re not looting foods and medicines. They’re just looting items that they want. So these aren’t people in distress — these are people that are taking advantage of a natural disaster and the suffering of many in our community to take what they want from retailers — also potentially putting (emergency response) services at risk in the communities where they are looting.”
The blizzard has already claimed the lives of more than 25 Western New Yorkers, and “we do expect there will be more,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in the news conference.
Gov. Kathy Hochul took aim at reports of price gouging during the storm.
“Price gouging is illegal. We have the attorney general’s office and our state is prepared to investigate any complains of price gouging,” Hochul said. “Those who engage in this disgusting practice at a time when people in our community are hurting, when they’re trying so hard to get basic necessities, there’s a scarcity because stores have been closed since Friday, then shame on them. And they’re going to meet the law in a way they probably didn’t encounter. We’re going to be going after them.
“The Department of Financial Services is engaging the insurance industry,” Hochul added, “making sure we have claims adjusters on the ground to help people who’ve had damage. Whether it’s the weight of snow on their roofs, whether it’s water damage … we want to make sure people know we’ll get help to them as soon as possible.”
Travel bans remain in effect in Buffalo and several surrounding towns. Officials urged drivers to stay off the roads so they can be cleared and kept passable for emergency services.
Hochul said violators “will be ticketed” and added that members of the National Guard will be stopping drivers in areas where bans are in place.