Much more like “scum of the Earth”

Whilst certain less than sharp minds apparently managed to misunderstand my call for sanity regarding looting hysteria the other day as it were an argument that such behaviour is okay, clearly preying on the victims of a disaster is (and I’ll put this in bold type so they don’t miss it) a bad thing to do. Even if the perpetrators are themselves desperate as a result of the same situation, and even if the victims are, say, fully-insured businesses whose staff and owners will barely notice the offence, it’s still a crime, and punishments will and should naturally apply. Naturally, the courts should take the circumstances of each offence into account – and that means the full circumstances, not merely the timing; I’d also, since I’d like to see crime reduced, argue that the emphasis should be on constructive sentences that don’t turn opportunistic, petty criminals into more serious, hardened criminals – whilst making clear that such behaviour will not be accepted.

Nonetheless, if you want people more deserving of the title “scum of the Earth” – or, as the Queensland Police have apparently dubbed them, “vultures” – I present not the spur-of-the-moment looters, but the organised fraudsters now conducting their nasty business:

Scammers are exploiting the outpouring of generosity for the Queensland flood appeal.

Charitable Australians are being warned to be vigilant amid reports of fraudulent emails, websites, phone callers and door-to-door collectors seeking funds…

Concern follows reports of scammers falsely claiming to be from major banks asking for funds…

In NSW, the State Emergency Service is investigating claims that fraudsters are calling people, claiming to be from the SES, to seek money.

Queensland Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart said that “unfortunately the vultures have started to come out” and a number of scams were operating, particularly in south-east Queensland.

Some of these involved bogus tradespeople demanding money up-front to clean or paint buildings or clear yards. They then disappear with no work being done.

Other scammers were phoning or electronically contacting householders, telling them they knew best how to handle money from federal and state authorities and then demanding their bank details.

These aren’t desperate people trying to survive a crisis and overstepping the bounds of the law – they are, by definition, organised and calculating. And they can cause a lot more damage to victims, who can lose a lot more than some personal property the waters might have taken anyway. Including, for example, trust in their neighbours and willingness to accept much-needed help. Not only that, but intercepting donations can have a knock-on effect of reducing the amount that other people are willing to donate.

And unlike with the “looting” panic, at least with the fraudsters, here media hype on the subject can do some good. Rather than prompting people to put their lives at risk hanging around dangerous areas during the height of the danger, this time it puts people on their guard and will help keep them safe.

I trust everyone reading this can see the difference.

UPDATE: Not the best people, either:

The trauma for flood victims is being compounded by some insurance companies insisting home owners delay cleaning up until after inspections.

Let’s all think positive.

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6 responses to “Much more like “scum of the Earth”

  1. I was tempted to reply, “finally, a crim Jeremy doesn’t like”, but then I re-read the post.

    I kinda think both looters and these scammers are pretty low on the moral totem pole, but I’m not sure why these guys you refer to are worse than someone who goes through a house picking up valuables or whatever while the occupants are huddled at an emergency shelter.

    In any case, all we’re dealing with here is “reports”, and a lot of conjecture as to the flow-on effects. Maybe we should just wait until the cops and the criminal justice system weighs all of the evidence before we indulge in a moral panic, eh?

  2. “I’m not sure why these guys you refer to are worse than someone who goes through a house picking up valuables or whatever while the occupants are huddled at an emergency shelter.”

    Perhaps you need to read the post a third time. It’s like I already gave reasons for that.

    “Maybe we should just wait until the cops and the criminal justice system weighs all of the evidence before we indulge in a moral panic, eh?”

    Wow! I finally got through to you.

  3. I agree with you there Jeremy, but still fail to see how you automatically class looters as “desperate people trying to survive a crisis”. Stealing a boat for your own personal gain doesn’t qualify as trying to survive a crisis.

    And just because someone doesn’t necessarily agree with everything you write, doesn’t make them “less than sharp minds”

  4. The “less than sharp minds” bit was referring to certain bloggers who’ve either stupidly or maliciously misrepresented my post – not commenters on this site, or elsewhere, who happen to disagree with me.

    And I’m not “automatically” classing looters as anything – I’m objecting to the blanket condemnation of them as “the scum of the Earth” who all deserve to be “used as flood markers”.

    The point of noting that some may be “desperate people trying to survive a crisis” was that until we see them in court we don’t know, so let’s not jump to conclusions – let alone provocative mob-inciting hysteria.

  5. Shabs I think Jeremy is arguing that: No they aren’t worse. They are just as bad, and yet the hysterical response to looters will result in a disproportionate response to looters from the legal system.

    Now in some cases looters may actually just be desperate people in a disaster, with no support, like NOLA. I’m not saying that applies in Australia. But then it doesn’t seem that the problems with looters are that bad here either.

    What is certain is that disaster relief scams require forethought and planning and an intention to take advantage of some peoples good nature and other peoples desperate need. Looting is theft.

    To me the response to potential looters should be directed at the scams J pointed to in this post, IF THAT RESPONSE IS GOING TO HAPPEN AT ALL. WHICH IT SHOULDN”T imo.

    Either way its just another example of the same scapegoating that goes on after every disaster, and I for one am sick of it. The people that drive this shit are rarely there on the front line line helping when its all going down. They make a living generating outrage and this is just another opportunity.

    Alot of people are emotionally devastated right now, and the ones that haven’t lost too much will probably be drained. They are vulnerable and have probably seem stuff they wished they hadn’t. Everyone else not directly affected knows this, cos at some point in our lives we have all been there.

    The last thing we need after this sort of thing is to get our hearts and heads confused confused.

    We need our hearts to be able to open for the survivors and our rational minds for debriefing and honestly assessing how we performed. Later when we can look at the events with some clear hindsight. If there is blame it needs to be judged rationally.

    The sort of rhetoric I’m hearing about looters doesn’t help this at all.

    Neither does the other political bullshit thats started all ready, and had by the weekend…

  6. narcoticmusing

    I have to agree with Jeremy on this one… Justice, real justice that is, considers the criminal not just the crime.

    And to add a disgusted observation onto Jules already good list; what’s with the footage from helicopters of people being washed away rather than news choppers being used to help people?

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