Armed groups in Oregon have been stopping drivers at gunpoint to try and prevent looting as wildfires ravaged the state, Fox News reported.
There is a group of armed individuals “that are actually trying to protect property … and are stopping individuals within the community,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said at a press conference Monday. “The first thing I’d ask them to do is please stop that.”
“We have reached out to a number of them,” he added. “If they see somebody suspicious, call us, let us handle it. It is illegal to stop somebody at gunpoint, and many of the people that we have seen going into these areas are actually going in to get maybe another load of their personal belongings.” (RELATED: Wildfires Will Become Worse Thanks To Decades-Old Liberal Policies, Says Fire Expert Who Predicted Uptick In Blazes)
“The last thing I want to see is anything tragically happen because somebody is overreacting to something they believe is criminal and it’s not,” he continued.
Concerns over looting have intensified due to the massive wildfires that have forced residents in California, Oregon, and Washington to evacuate. Anti-looting signs have appeared across Oregon with messages like “looters will be shot” and “we won’t call your family, your body will never be found,” Fox News reported.
— Devin Eskew (@Devin_Eskew) September 12, 2020
Roberts said that the department saw a 400% increase in the number of calls for service within the past week compared to the previous week, saying that they received over 330 calls. Roberts said that the majority of those calls are about suspicious people or trespassing, and that “the majority of those calls are actually unfounded.”
“There’s a lot of panic and alert going on with the belief that people are running around setting fires,” Roberts said. “There’s just a lot of misinformation about folks trying to set fires, and I want to reassure everybody that we are on this and I encourage you, if you see anything suspicious, to call us.” (RELATED: Portland Man Sets Off Multiple Brush Fires As State Grapples With Deadly Wildfires)
Roberts also noted that in the evacuation areas, there are very few people, making it easier for the department to patrol the area for suspicious activity.