There is a misperception by some people that social order broke down during Hurricane Irma. The police were working hard, the Rescue Workers kept a lookout, and electronic vigilance was active but some people saw the hurricane as an opportunity for looting.

Looting during hurricanes

Along with the images of the devastation of hurricanes come the TV videos of looters running away with merchandise. There are reports of looters entering individual homes and stealing valuables. With burglaries come looting-related arrests and warnings are issued by police.

The police are trying to save those who are stranded and at the same time must also protect property from thieves. The fear of crime and looting force enforcement to impose curfews and issue evacuation orders, not just for safety reasons, but also to combat crime. Some people deliberately remain instead of evacuating because they see an opportunity to loot. When a storm strikes, the merchandise in business and valuables in homes are relatively unprotected.

Has social order broken down?

The looting begins because during a storm some people perceive that mechanisms of social control have lost their restraining power. This is an inaccurate perception because even though there is an evacuation, the law enforcement agencies are active, rescue workers are on the lookout, and TV cameras are rolling.

Even though there is no breakdown of social order, there is a perception that riots, looting, and burglary can be executed with ease.

Social control is operational during hurricanes.

The false perception that social order has broken down is reinforced by messages from government sources that people should store essentials, have a plan to survive, and have warm clothing ready for use.

Simple instructions such as keeping a store of drinking water can create an impression that social order has broken down. Survival instructions such as keep warm, keep clean and avoid sickness, also creates a perception that social order has broken down. Those that are waiting for the disintegration of social order doubt the integrative ability of organic solidarity.

There are innumerable reports that neighbors, firefighters, and rescue trucks jumped in together in the rescue efforts. The stories of selfless service and courage in face of roaring hurricanes far exceed those of dastardly looting and burglary. Therefore, there was no breakdown of social order.