On air: Is looting ever acceptable?

Since we talked about the Chile earthquake last night, how to control looting has moved to the top of the agenda.

President Bachelet has sent 7000 soldiers to Concepcion and imposed a curfew. Bachelet condemned the “pillage and criminality” and said “I want to call to the people’s conscience. We must all work together,” she said.

Looting has become an almost inevitable part of disasters. And again, the words ‘looting’ and ‘looters’ has provoked fierce debate. In Haiti and New Orleans, some thought that the portrayals and comment about looters and looting were racist and considered stealing for survival an understandable response in dire circumstances.

What do you think? Ok to steal food and water for survival? What about a flat screen TV? What if that TV could help the family’s survival further down the line by selling it? Or, should the usual rules of conscience always apply and the maintaining law and order always be the priority?

84 Responses to “On air: Is looting ever acceptable?”

  1. 1 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 11:20

    Looting in Chile is just an excuse to get a Sony Playstation and cause grief to their fellow countrymen. I mean, it’s not like Haiti where there is no food and devastation is complete. I thought the Chileans were better than this. It’s embarrasing that people would take advantage of a national crisis. Where’s your sense of pride?

    • 2 Thomas Mathew
      March 2, 2010 at 16:21

      If your family is starving then looting is perfectly justified in the short term after a natural disaster of this magnitude, provided its restricted to food and supplies.

      But if one’s a politician or a wall street banker, the same rules dont apply, you can loot the general public at will without fear or shame.

      • 3 S.Smith
        March 4, 2010 at 23:05

        So, morality and honesty are the qualities mandatory for the rich, but the poor may commete crimes and the same rules based on the 10 commendments do not apply!? We’ll have laws for rich and poor? There is aid in the area, and also, if the people orderly asked the people that had food and drink for help, they would have gottne ie.

    • 4 Thomas Mathew
      March 2, 2010 at 16:46

      “I thought the Chileans were better than this”

      Oh please. New Orleans comes to mind after Katrina. Give me a break!. We are all human, at the end of the day.

      • 5 Frank , San Francisco
        March 2, 2010 at 21:51

        Really though….. it was like 24 hours after the earthquake! Who was starving? Seriously. It was opportunistic. The looters were lighting trucks on fire to draw away troops and police from other areas so they could loot those formally protected areas.

        In Haiti there were people who A. Helped each other and B. Had not eaten in 3-4 days and still LINED UP for food.

        It is just so easy to dismiss and say Oh natural disaster… oh survival, I guess all rules about right and wrong go out the window.

      • 6 bulwip
        March 3, 2010 at 12:16

        True…but some are more human than others …

  2. 7 Carlos A Londono E
    March 2, 2010 at 11:23

    Of course it is ok in extreme cases of poverty, need and desperation. If it were done by the rich evading paying taxes, the bankers receiving massive bonuses, the politicians enriching themselves while in power people would applaud them for their trickery but if the poor attempt to feed the family they are criminals.

  3. 8 Nigel
    March 2, 2010 at 11:58

    Obviously Clamdip has never been hungry and never had to fight with others to take food and water out of damaged and essentially abandoned stores. What should they do? Just leave it there to spoil while people starve and dehydrate? Sure the idiot with a fridge on his back or those stealing wheels from damaged cars are just pure greedy and stealing what they cannot otherwise afford but he must remeber that this is not unique to developing countries and should remember the looting in Chicago whe there was a big power failure quite a few years ago.

    • 9 Frank , San Francisco
      March 2, 2010 at 22:00

      again…. “abandoned stores”? What is that? If I am a store owner…that store is where I spend most of my time! It is my home more than my home is… that is.

      Believe me… you want to THINK that all of a sudden no one cares about the goods people are stealing but believe me someone does care very much. The store owner bought that item, not the government… NOT just the fridge…. the bread too!

      Don’t justify this type of stealing as a victimless crime.

      Better these guys with the clubs that can break into a shop and take everything than let the hard worker [who is not a criminal by the way] make the choice about what they want to do with their own things [yes… the bread too], is that what you are saying?

  4. 10 Guido, Vienna
    March 2, 2010 at 12:03

    Looting for food is understandable in certain cases. I would ask everybody criticising the looting to think how they would react. Imagine you (and your children) are hungry because food stores are destroyed and the supermarket is closed?

    In general I wonder why this topic is so important to us (and the media)? Do we really life in an age of fear, essentially fear of loss of possession?

  5. 11 gary indiana
    March 2, 2010 at 12:56

    Borrowing food and shelter to stay alive is okay if an accounting and repayment is made. Toasters and TVs aren’t necessary for survival; taking such things is criminal theft. I do not condone the use of lethal force to defend property; but its use to maintain order is justifiable.

    • March 4, 2010 at 23:08

      Agreed!! I think after the tsunami is this the rubbish that the sea vomit, Looters!!! Locust!!, people that steal things for the sake of having, I hope with all my heart that the Chilean Goverment will mark them heavily.

  6. 13 Linda from Italy
    March 2, 2010 at 13:28

    If your world has just (literally) fallen in, you have no food or water and no idea when relief is going to arrive, any normal human being would go looking for supplies. If this involves breaking into a shop, so be it and I find it horrific that troops would be called in to stop this perfectly understandable response.
    Admittedly lifting TVs etc. could be taking it a step too far, but sending troops in to perpetrate violence against their own people in such dire straights does nothing to promote national solidarity and the rule of law, supermarket owners are, or at least should be, insured, so what the hell? Admittedly this sort of self-help (can-do attitude?) works in favour of the youngest and strongest and is therefore, by nature, unfair, but at least some people are getting aid, rather than no one.
    One of the most heart-rending aspects of the Haiti situation was when the US moved in, on the invitation of the Haitian government, and their army spent at least 3 days setting up a bureaucracy and making sure no one could get at any supplies without their benediction – I can’t help feeling, as other bloggers have suggested, that there is a whiff of colonialism/racism here with a “subdue the natives at all costs” mentality, not seeing them a fellow human beings in need.

  7. 14 patti in cape coral
    March 2, 2010 at 13:42

    It depends on your definition of looting, i.e. taking advantage of a disordered situation to steal items not essential for survival: No, that’s not okay. However, scavenging, i.e. taking items necessary for survival, is okay, IMO.

  8. 15 Subhash C mehta
    March 2, 2010 at 14:09

    Although looting is not acceptable at all, yet it does happen in dire circumstances; the circumstances created by the vagaries of Nature, aftermaths of wars and extreme poverty. While it may not be prudent or ethical to legitimize it, nevertheless the extent of its justifiability is a social issue, particular and different in accordance with the moral values of different communities and societies.

  9. March 2, 2010 at 14:44

    Given the desperate situation that disaster victims find themselves in, such acts that counts towards one’s survival are not avoidable. You may call it looting, I’ll call it survival mode. Just sitting there doing nothing and waiting for help that’s not forthcoming is tantamount to committing suicide.

    Embu, Kenya

  10. 17 Jaminya
    March 2, 2010 at 14:59

    Food and it’s financial state is fallacy. It is sold in large not just to sustain our human body, but the capitalist body.

    Food is for life, so if it is to be had, take it and share it. Paying for it is fallacy, I do not cut down the tree to make money in turn to approach the tree with a 20£ note for some apples. Food is of the earth, and it is far more important than the law’s illusion of possession. All we possess is the body, sustaining it is called survival not looting.

    For anyone taking things that cannot be eaten nor fed to another know what theyre doing, and in each situation to their own survival. Hunger would bring us all to our feet in search of food, you’re damn right i would forage.

  11. March 2, 2010 at 15:34

    Looting is definitely unacceptable. The Chilean government has to regain the initiative, the army needs to to take control and ensure that law and order prevail. Even in such a desperate emergency the law enforcement authorities have to make certain that property is safe-guarded and that emergency food supplies are distributed fairly. There has to be proper food rationing when supplies are low. When desperate people take the law into their own hands, chaos follows.

  12. 19 Eric in France
    March 2, 2010 at 15:58

    Hello there,

    have you ever been hungry? If yes, only then you can understand why it is acceptable. It is called survival.

    Maybe some will take non-food products (e.g. camcoder, piping, toilet seats and so forth) as well in order to sell it later discounted to buy some cheap food. In a few days, you might even find people selling some of the food that they will have received in order to buy some medications. But my unfortunate experience, that is called survival. Any other comments are just moral stupidity from those who never been and never seen others in desperate needs.

    You can think of accounting the goods taken and/or killing looters when you are nicely getting your fat drink and juicy hamburger, but what would you do if your area was stroke and your fat food reserve was buried deep under. Would you go to farming fields around to help you and your close ones to survive? Don not say no, because I am sure you would even though you know that the local sheriff will shoot you down as he is entitled to unless you can bribe him/her!

    Have a nice meal later.

  13. 20 dan
    March 2, 2010 at 16:19

    After a national disaster I believe looting comes in two very distinct waves.
    The first wave are people that need food and water to survive. I accept that looting as human life is sacred and to save ones self and others is an imperative.
    The second wave is as society breaks down and looting of materials non-supportive of life begins. This is totally unacceptable and those looters must be dealt with in the harshest possible terms or they will go on to prey on the weakest of society and a Lord of the Flies scenario will ensue.

  14. March 2, 2010 at 16:20

    We need to develop a new term to discriminate between two like actions caused by VERY different motivations.

    “Looting” is taking what is not yours for an easy freebie. It is the same as robbery and should be prosecuted as such.

    “Surviving” is taking what is not yours for your human survival in times of emergency. Prosecuting a person for “surviving” seems to me to contradict the meaning of “human rights”.

    • 22 patti in cape coral
      March 2, 2010 at 17:28

      @ Jodie- I like your term better, surviving is much better than scavenging… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  15. March 2, 2010 at 16:26

    remember how they even tried to classify hurricane katrina people as “looters” when they went out and took what they needed? yes, the same people who waded through chest-high toxic waters to rescue their friends…? The blatantly anti-poor, anti-working-class, pro-profit, pro-property stance even just of the mere word “looting” is disgusting and i believe the whole concept should be banned from the human race’s lexicon as politically and socially unacceptable. of course, that will never happen, because the rich are always in charge and, being in charge, they always think of the rest of us as undeserving (and ultimately expendable).

  16. March 2, 2010 at 16:47

    Taking life sustaining goods from stores, I would not consider looting . Private dwellings should be considered hands off and looters should be delt with severely. Taking material or none life sustaining is theft pure and simple and not fit for a civilized society.

  17. 25 JanB
    March 2, 2010 at 17:01

    It’s only acceptable when one has no other means of survival available, and even in that case it would be unethical to just take what you want because looters never even try to compensate the shop owner in some way. As long as there is something the shop owner wants and the potential looters don’t need to survive then they should try to trade, and goods should always be distributed equally among the victims, not just the strongest among them.

    In Chili there is no need for looting since people have other means of survival available and in Haiti people did not distribute the looted goods fairly, so in both cases looting is unacceptable.

  18. 26 T
    March 2, 2010 at 17:05

    I’ve been to 25 states in America. I’ve lived in the U.K., Japan and have been to 7 other coutries as well.

    In addition, I’ve been homeless twice. So I know firsthand that people will do and say anything to survive. Now, there’s talk here about when the next big earthquake will happen. How will Americans react if this happens and Obama declares martial law? All of the laws to (justify?) this are in place. But frankly, nobody here wants to deal with that reality.

  19. 27 Anthony
    March 2, 2010 at 17:10

    Yes. If there is a natural disaster the FIRST thing I’m looting are guns, then water, then food, then fuel. The worst thing would be allowing gang members take control of these items.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  20. 28 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 17:11

    The people in Chile are not that desperate when they are stealing everything but food. Most of it is opportunity and the mob mentality. People with no brains who go along with the madding crowd. Chileans are not desperate like the Haitians who have nothing. If you walk a mile or two North, East, South and West you’ll find areas relativeley untouched by the disaster and food on store shelves. This was true of New Orleans too.

    • 29 Nigel
      March 2, 2010 at 20:08

      Hi Clamdip

      To universally ascribe well being to all Chileans is wrong. To compare Chile and Haiti at any level is losing persective of the truth. We must be watching different television shows. Sure I have seen guys with electronics on their backs and shoulders but I have also seen them (women, men and children) running away with carboard cases of bottled water. I don’t think that there is just one rule for all of Chile just becaue it is better off than Haiti.

  21. March 2, 2010 at 17:11

    Looting is not totally accepted but because man has become greedy, lacks care, love for us, he has used it as an opportunity for him to get what he wants. Gone are days people uesd to be empathetic to us.

  22. March 2, 2010 at 17:11

    Looting is not totally accepted but because man has become greedy, lacks care, love for us, he has used it as an opportunity for him to get what he wants. Gone are days people used to be empathetic to us.

  23. 32 Jagjit Singh Mukandpuri India
    March 2, 2010 at 17:14

    No, looting is never acceptible and can not justified. When law and order fails due to any reason, then it happens.

  24. 33 steve
    March 2, 2010 at 17:18

    You can’t eat electronics equipment. If it were food, it would be understandable.. But TVs and Blurays? No. not acceptable. To the communists out there, if there’s another blizzard here in DC, should I be able to steal a BMW from a car dealership because I cannot afford to buy one while others can afford it, therefore it should be mine?

  25. 34 T
    March 2, 2010 at 17:21

    Once I went over to my sister’s house for dinner. As we sat around the table, one of my nieces asked her about various dangerous things going on in the world. And my sister told her that if someone tried to hurt any of her kids, she’d kill them on the spot.

    And I thought to myself, she’s 8 years old. What kind of effect is that going to have on her (now and as she gets older)? Also when the MSM talks about looting, when was the last time your saw rich white people breaking into and burning down stores to “survive”?

  26. 35 John in Salem
    March 2, 2010 at 17:27

    In a dire enough situation I would not hesitate to take what is needed for survival but I would also expect to be held accountable. Any crime, no matter how understandable the circumstance, must still be judged before it can be forgiven.

  27. 36 Andrew in Australia
    March 2, 2010 at 17:34

    If you require food and water to survive, your supply lines have been cut, you have no stores, your home is destroyed, in that case if it were me, I would not sit around and wait for some possible rescue mission to find me. I would go to where food is likely to be and I would steal it.. it is stealing after all. Whether it be a large multinational supermarket or the local small business owner one’s survival takes over. Who would be foolish enough to think.. oh no I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t like it if my property were stolen being the shop owner, but presumably I’d have recourse after the event to recover costs. But to use this as an excuse to steal other items that are not essential for immediate survival, would a tent, sleeping bag, kerosene lamp qualify as essentials… is unacceptable. Why would you need a TV or DVD player? Unless you also stole a generator to go with your coffee maker and focaccia grill.

    But face it, unless you are the Dalai Lama, it is in our nature to steal if an opportunity arises to do so and the higher the likelihood of getting away with it makes the decision less difficult. Human nature to take what is not theirs and we have seen this time and time again during war or natural disaster. But if we consider ourselves to be civilised or want to live in society then we have to know it is not acceptable to take what is not ours and to do so makes you a criminal no less.

  28. 37 jens
    March 2, 2010 at 18:06

    Funny, how many here aceppt what is commonly known as theft. i was always amazed at how riots used to break-out right next to an electronics store and how all the TV’s etc were carried safely away……

    stop excusing such behaviour, because I am still waiting on the person who can expaine to me how an MP3-player will sustain my ability to survive in abscence of food and water. even selling it on is a crime…..

  29. 38 T
    March 2, 2010 at 18:11

    To rich and powerful politicians, bankers, etc., it’s perfectly acceptable. Why? Because as much as the public has a go at them for doing this, they know that they don’t have the stomach to go the distance and not back down until they stop.

    So (IMO), Gordon Brown is no different than Obama. And, I predict that both will be re-elected.

  30. 39 Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite
    March 2, 2010 at 18:18

    There was a recent comment from a Chilean official who said that “people loose their social sense” in a disaster. This is contrary to what people in Eastern Europe believe and keep reiterating and that is that the post-war generation was the last generation fixed on noble ideals. As the years went on, the ideals crumbled until they have gone altogether. One of the explanations therefore of the contemporary immorality is the following: Although parents spoke less and explained less to their children after the war, the air itself was ringing with the pain of need, with the necessity of enduring and there was no need to prove what is beautiful or good. Children grew up filled with a sense of aspiration. One of the reasons why education fails in moral questions today is that they are taught, which cannot give an issue, and there are no conditions which would brace people. But the Chile disaster overrules the conclusion which I have been making, as the conditions are there, most tragically. No, looting is not acceptable nor can it ever be justified, but the world “is out of joint” and many times so ever since these words were written. Thank you

  31. 40 Robyn Lexington, KY USA
    March 2, 2010 at 18:18

    Depends on your definition of looting. Food and necessities I have no problem with trying to survive. But TV’s and Refrigerators, no way. They should be punished. I also don’t understand the burning of grocery stores and other shops. What does this accomplish but taking away a source of food for survivors.

  32. 41 billy wachakana from kenya
    March 2, 2010 at 18:25

    these people are looting because there is no other way of acquiring basic human necessities like foods pads and others. the government should speedup humanitarian aide so as to avoid such temptations, I heard yesterday on BBC’s news hour people praising the chilean government on its readiness to deal with crisis but i have confirmed to myself that these praises are vague, useless and empty.I think its time the international community rescued the situation other wise sending armed soldiers to people who need humanitarian help is nonsence of the highest order

  33. 42 subra
    March 2, 2010 at 18:54

    An exceptional situation needs an exceptional solution. People are suffering and their children are hungry while food is decaying in the supermarkets. This is unacceptable. Looting in this case is nothing less than denigrating fellow humans who are scrounging or scavenging for food for their survival.
    Journalists focusing their camera on a person carrying a fridge is merely an instance of sensationalism and an unethical means of making more money for their tv stations. Using such pictures for making more money is more immoral than the act itself as no one knows why that person grabbed a fridge from the store.
    The army as well as the government is to be blamed for their incapacity and inefficiency in promptly organizing to sustain the suffering population with food and water. Shooting the hungry is adding insult to injury and justifying the government’s incompetency.

  34. 43 jens
    March 2, 2010 at 19:03

    well the organized looter will first steal the generator, then gas, followed by the rice cooker, automatic egg cooker, automatic can opener, the wireless kettle and a plasma TV…..

  35. 44 Elias
    March 2, 2010 at 19:21

    Looting under any circumstances is not acceptable at all period.

  36. 45 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 19:23

    Sorry Andrew,
    Maybe in your world It’s in “your nature to steal” and these values were condoned. I didn’t grow up with same set of values. Stealing for the sake of stealing is stealing! I doubt the situation in Chile is so dire that people must loot. It would be different in a place like Haiti where the government is so incompetent but not a rich nation like Chile where the country is not decimated. This is opportunistic looting and mayhem not survival. It’s shameful!

  37. 46 steve
    March 2, 2010 at 19:32

    Wow, the entitlement mentality of socialists/communists always makes me laugh. You’re defending thieves, who are stealing radios and televisions, when you can eat neither. Your justification is that some evil rich capitalist can afford it, and you cannot, therefore it should be yours…

  38. 47 rob
    March 2, 2010 at 19:33

    I believe that its wrong to steal regardless of the situation. In the modern world, we have laws against stealing.

  39. 48 jade
    March 2, 2010 at 19:35

    taking food, water and medicine to survive or save someone’s life is not looting. making a profit when law and order cannot be enforced is looting. I wonder though, did we hear about looting by the victims during the Asian sulami? maybe some people are by nature more “ungovernable”, more proned to self-expressive, anti-social behaviors?

  40. 49 Alan in AZ
    March 2, 2010 at 19:37

    You can justify anything if you feel in the right. Just because someone needs something, stealing it doesn’t make it right.

  41. 50 Joe
    March 2, 2010 at 19:38

    He who frames the question frames the debate. Calling a father going into a shattered grocery store searching for food for his hungry family and calling an organized gang ripping off electronics looting is a nonsensical conflation. A crime is judged (at least in the USA) in part by the intent of the person committing the act. A person who would pay, if he could find someone to pay, for essentials of survival does not have the intent to commit larceny, he’s simply reacting to the exigencies of the emergency. The government of any country does not show up with tons of food and begin handing it out except in an emergency. By the very nature of the situation, the rules which govern behavior essential to survival are altered.
    That said, no one has yet proved that expensive electronic entertainment devices or other so-called luxury goods are essential to life. Taking them without paying for them under any circumstances is a criminal act. The fact that the storefront which normally encloses them is shattered is not license to take them.

  42. 51 Ibrahim in UK
    March 2, 2010 at 19:42

    Theft is understandable when the alternative is death. It becomes the lesser of the two evils, thought it is still an evil.

  43. 52 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 19:44

    Also, there is a very thin, fragile link holding communities and people together. Heaping pain on top of pain is wrong. When there is a disaster you need to reach deep and deal with your emotions for the larger good of society.

  44. 53 Tom D Ford
    March 2, 2010 at 19:44

    I guess we could call De-regulated Capitalism a slow and long term looting, couldn’t we?

    So what we are talking about here is a version of very rapid “Extremely De-Regulated Capitalism”.

  45. 54 Dan in Edinburgh
    March 2, 2010 at 19:51

    As some have mentioned, this kind of desperate behaviour is inevitable following such a major catasrophe. I cannot fail to agree with those who have suggested that the focus on violent looting is partly a consequence of the 24-hour news cycle, and the constant need of media organisations to present a fresh narrative and development. The old adage “if it bleeds, it leads” seems to be just as apt in the 21st century.

  46. 55 Andrew in Australia
    March 2, 2010 at 19:54

    Rachel on air says that soldiers should not be protecting property. Sadly criminal elements will take over as well as supposedly regular citizens. If you do not curb this type of behaviour then you risk all out anarchy and with no respect for property this behaviour permeates amongst survivors and leads to escalating criminal behaviour.

  47. 56 Ben
    March 2, 2010 at 19:54

    We’re arguing semantics. Who cares what the news outlets call it? At least it’s being reported on. Without the media, you wouldn’t even have known there was a lady crawling on her stomach looking for diapers.

  48. 57 Jerry in GA, USA
    March 2, 2010 at 19:55

    Its not a matter of rich country versus poor countries.

    Its an argument of stealing versus survival. The same thing happened in New Orleans when Hurricane katrian hit the Gulf Coast. The looters were portrayed as criminals, however the media didn’t mention that most of the looting occurred in the poorest areas of the city, because most of the rich and middle class had already left either before or in the aftermath of the disaster.

  49. 58 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 19:55

    Massive income disparity is not an excuse to take advantage of a national crisis.

  50. 59 Frank Diamond n' San Francisco Says :
    March 2, 2010 at 19:56

    Looting is wrong!

    My family owns groceries in Jamaica. We have had a history of devastating hurricanes where people’s homes and property have washed away completely.

    Most of the supermarkets in theses countries are owned by REAL people. Those goods BELONG to someone. It is not like the U.S. where big conglomerates own the goods and it appears to be more of a victimless crime.

    Looting in a disaster adds insult to injury. It would be like mugging someone who has a bit more than you do and in the end we all suffer.

  51. 60 Bob in oregon, usa
    March 2, 2010 at 19:57

    If the store is never open and is full of things people need, it is understandable yet still wrong for people to take things without intent of paying for it. If the food is going to rot anyway… But it is even more wrong for the market or store not to open. Although easier said than done, put some “cashiers” with abacus and pencil and paper to record transactions and accept payment or record debt. Or it would be better for the military to seize and redistribute the goods, and take care of re-compensating the market owner after the crisis is over.

    • 61 Frank Diamond n' San Francisco Says :
      March 2, 2010 at 21:39

      Just would like you to know… that as owners of a shop during disasters in Jamaica… my family has given away bread and staple items for free. We understand what our neighbors are going through first hand… better than the government.

      Listen. It is hard enough just dealing with the great need all around you, much less turning around and running a business. I think the “abacus” idea is well intentioned, and yet very impractical. People rush the gates, and take from the old and the weak in a crisis. It is better to give it away. Then at the very least everyone knows they have a fair chance to get the same thing everyone else gets until it is all gone. No partiality and no attempting to “judge” if someone is asking for more than they will ever be able to payback. Also people in the community learn who their friends are and will comeback after the crisis.

      Still… and overall. This is the owner of the store’s decision to make. Not the government, not local officials and certainly not club wielding crowds. Each owner has to search their own heart and do what they feel is best. We have seen in places like L.A. when there was rioting and looting that store owners patrolled their roofs with weapons. As I said, each owner searches their heart and it is their choice to make.

      We worked hard for those goods… they were not donations. It is an immense set back to people in these communities whom are likely to be the ones who will be able to render normalcy to the system after the worst is over. Folks should consider that. If a shop keeper is wiped out, then it takes far longer to see that shop open again after the crisis.

      I appreciate your comment though.


  52. 62 Andrew in Australia
    March 2, 2010 at 19:59


    I differentiated between taking food and water when there is none and taking other goods not related to basic human requirements Did you get my point with that?

    I reiterate that if someone, anyone feels they can get away with something and an opportunity presents itself it IS human nature to steal. I doubt that even you would not take something if it was out in the open or unattended and you could anonymously walk off with it. My world is the same as your world, look around you and see how rife theft is, friends will even steal from friends. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

  53. 63 Kacey
    March 2, 2010 at 20:00

    Survial is survival….If the only way for you to feed your family is to trade a T.V. you just stole then thats what you must do for them. It is difficult to dictate behavior in a situation where survival itself is in question.

  54. 64 @guykaks
    March 2, 2010 at 20:05

    I thinking looting is justfied in some cases where the commodity is scarce and scanty.In this case i feel the looters had no choice but take what they needed

    • 65 jens
      March 2, 2010 at 20:33

      it is OK to loot a scarce and scant commodity? i am awfully scant on cash and diamonds…..

      what looters forget is that they are taking by force and lay claim to a commodity ultimatly from society and the weak. looting only benefits the strong and is therfore moraly wrong.

  55. 66 Andrew James Axel Lee
    March 2, 2010 at 20:13

    Have “heard” of the show SURVIVORS of course you have its on you station LOL.
    In cases like that i say yes.

  56. March 2, 2010 at 20:14

    Actually looting is not acceptable in normal setting. In the case of disasters like the actual situation in Chile and the previous earthquake in Haiti where people are fighting for their lives it will not be fair to call their actions “looting”, because looting is close to stealing. Let’s call it borrowing. They are simply “borrowing in the absence of the owners.”

  57. March 2, 2010 at 20:33

    No one starves or dies of thirst in twentyfour hours,which is when most of the looting was done.So that makes it just plain theft.Perhaps after three days we could take a gentler view,but by then troops were on the streets and aid was on its way.If you steal food during any disaster or crisis you are depriving others.I would ask those who agree with looting,if you were caught stealing someone elses food,would you kill them,because that is the inevitable next step,on your road to survival.

  58. 69 Tom D Ford
    March 2, 2010 at 20:54

    I wonder if grocery stores and distributors ought to be reconsidered in disasters like this. If you think about it they are the closest and potentially the quickest emergency food supply of all. Maybe some policy and deal should be negotiated and written up ahead of time such that the owners of grocery stores can just open up their doors to the locals who need emergency food supplies, with the knowledge that they will be fully reimbursed by the government and/or charities for whatever their losses are for supplying that food and water. In other words, I see a potential here for grocery store owners to be considered as heroes for supplying emergency food to their local customers, instead of as victims of “looters”. And Clothing suppliers might be reconsidered in the same light.

  59. March 2, 2010 at 21:22

    Looting: goods stolen or ilicitly obtained.

    Here in my country took place two disasters: 1.- the earthquake and, 2.- the looters.

    When we have a catastrophe of this magnitude (huge), with no electricity, no water, no communications, no milk, no food, no hospitals, no help or promptly aid of the government… the people starts to loose the sense of public order.

    The government is the main responsible of this situation since they did not act quickly before looting occurs.

    In my opinion curfew should not end until peace, public order and security have been restore. Those who do no understand this must receive the full force of law. We should not tolerate criminal actions and it´s embarrasing that people take advantage of national crisis.

    In the other hand,¿ why the main cities and local authorities don´t have satellite phones before? Here you can find only improvisations of our authorities in order to develop peace and security to the chilean citizens.

  60. 71 Tom D Ford
    March 2, 2010 at 21:25

    I see a potential here for grocery store owners to be considered as heroes for supplying emergency food to their local customers, instead of as victims of “looters”.
    If you think about it, grocery stores and distributors are the closest and potentially the quickest emergency food supply of all. Maybe some policy and deal should be negotiated and written up ahead of time such that the owners of grocery stores can just open up their doors to the locals who need emergency food supplies, with the knowledge that they will be fully reimbursed by the government and/or charities for whatever their losses are for supplying that food and water.

  61. 72 Hugo, South Africa
    March 2, 2010 at 21:41

    I think I would prefer to suspend judgement on the behaviour of people who have lost their homes, have no water, sewerage, electricity, communications and legitimate access to food. At least the Chilean government has seen fit to pay for the stocks of the major supermarket chains.

  62. 73 Colin L Beadon
    March 2, 2010 at 22:06

    Civilised people, I’d like to think, don’t loot except possibly, under extreme situations for food and water. From my own point of view, I could not live with picking up anything that did not belong to me.
    Of course, I’m lucky, having not had to face such extremes, and so admit truthfully, I really don’t know how I might be forced to act.
    Only once, in my very early youth, aged seven or eight during the war in England, did I stupidly steal something I could never have used. It was a film, and I did not have a camera. I never stole anything ever again after that, though I was not exposed.

  63. 74 Alex Ian
    March 2, 2010 at 22:59

    I think many in this discussion lack a deeper insight in chilean society. There´s no doubt whatsoever that already within the first 24hours after the earthquake there where many people going hungry and thirsty. Not all Chileans can afford iphones…Many go hungry at the end of the month even without an earthquake…
    Nonetheless, more than the plain need for supplies, this disaster also lets the tensions in society break open, which where hardly covered before. I hope the military presence can stop the downward spiral now, but the “legal” distribution of supplies has to start effectively, too. The government was definitely too slow to react!
    Right now, basically all stores and pharmacies in Concepcion seem to be looted and vandalized, and they start going for the houses.

  64. 75 Clamdip
    March 2, 2010 at 23:35

    Thank You David. The survival issue is idiocy when people can get out of an affected area and find a well stocked grocery store a mile or so down the road. This is just an excuse for anamilistic, brutal thug behavior because a certain sector of the population feels entitled. It’s a rendition of “Lord of the Flies”
    Abject poverty in Chile? Give me a break! This isn’t the time for Chileans to use the disaster to make a case for social inequality.

  65. 76 Cathie, CA
    March 3, 2010 at 06:32

    My stepdad has been adamant about keeping a food storage and emergency supplies (now in both cars as well as the garage) in case of a disaster. He is a very kindhearted man, who would give the shirt off his back to help anyone in need. However, I still think he’d be totally devastated if he was not able to provide for the needs of our family in a disaster, because others felt they were justified in just coming in and taking whatever they wanted. Yeah, a small handful of people wouldn’t hurt much, but when everyone else follows suit, our family would suffer.

    Seriously, how hard is it to put emergency items in a bag that could fit over a bike, or fit in the back of your car? If people have the strength to fight off the police or cause a riot so they can loot, they should muster up the strength to pull peices of wood, etc. to get to their OWN supplies. I’ll gladly help who I can in an emergency, but I have a responsibility to my own family first. If others thought they had a right to compromise my ability to do that, because they did nothing to prepare for a disaster, I’d be quite ticked off.

  66. 77 Shadrack Nuer Machut
    March 3, 2010 at 13:38

    Looting is not supposed to be practiced otherwise all us must remain empty handed because there are weak and strong people. God said that everybody must work hard to earn living. Why should we encourage it? NO we don’t want it.

  67. 78 Dennis Junior
    March 3, 2010 at 15:22

    Of course, looting is not acceptable because it is not morally proper; Although, I understand that in times of crisis e.g national calamity people do need things to survive.


  68. 79 JanB
    March 3, 2010 at 18:56

    Many people here seem to think that looting means a bunch of starving women, children and elderly people stealing food to survive. In practice it’s more like gangs of young men stealing from shops and then selling what they’ve stole for exorbitant prices to the women, children and elderly. These people have nowhere else to go because the gangs eliminated the competition from the stores.

    If there is food left in the stores it should be distributed equally among the needy in an orderly manner. If you don’t abide by that you will cause the deaths of others, it’s that simple.

  69. 80 Clamdip
    March 3, 2010 at 21:23

    I don’t take things that don’t belong to me. A value instilled in me from birth. Maybe your world is different than mine. It’s not a judgement just a fact. It’s understandable that people would steal if faced with starvation. The situation in Chile is not so utterly desperate that people need to loot and rob and steal everything because, Oh Well! It’s a national crisis and the pickings are good.

  70. 81 Alice Wright
    March 3, 2010 at 23:39

    Cathy, I heard on NPR about a community in Haiti where there was no government help, & no foreign help; but the community was feeding and sheltering its own. The reason was that those folks had put away food and other supplies in case of emergency.

    In a disaster, we of course feed our own first, and then be ready to share with those without. Surely, they should have heeded the warning to store up food, and be prepared; but in reality, I need also to be willing to share. It’s not my job to judge. What would Jesus do?

    Take care. Aunt Alice Jean

  71. March 4, 2010 at 00:31

    I do not understand why nobody complain about the tickets: before the earthquake,
    4,000 chilens dollars, after, 10,000 chilens dollars. Now my question, who is stealing to whom ????????????

  72. 83 Keith Rodgers
    March 4, 2010 at 02:56

    While nobody condons looting it must be really frustrating if you have a family with no water or food and you know there is supplies in the supermarket. Its not right but if your family was in the same position what would you do wait for it to arrive and starve or help yourself.
    People are in dire need of water and food just accept its an emergency situation and let the government compensate the shop owners or let them claim on the insurance.

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