Wildfires have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate across the Central Coast. Law enforcement officers are working overtime to protect the homes and businesses they left behind. In hard hit Santa Cruz County, looting has led multiple arrests.
At a news briefing Sunday, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart showed his disgust for law breakers who prey on fire victims.
“It takes a special person to wake up in the morning and say, you know what, I'm going to go victimize and traumatize people who have already been through everything that this community has been through,” said Hart.
In one case a firefighter’s wallet was stolen from his fire truck. His credit cards were then maxed out and his bank account drained.
Normally the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office has 10 deputies on duty. But since the beginning of the fire, the number has increased to between 60 and 90 officers working round the clock.
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell joined Hart in warning lawbreakers to stay out of evacuated areas.
"You're going to get stopped. You're going to get arrested. And we are going to prosecute you. And we have absolutely no sympathy for you," said Rosell.
Rosell also warned businesses about price gouging. He says the State of Emergency in the county makes that a crime with fines that can go up to $10,o00.
In Monterey County, Sheriff Steve Bernal warned residents of scams asking for donations to firefighter or victims funds. He says if you want to help, donate to organizations you trust.