At the Shops at Midtown Miami, crooks helped themselves to shoes, clothes and laptops from closed-up stores. A little farther north in Little River, thieves used a sledgehammer to break into several businesses in Miami’s Junction Lofts. In Miami-Dade County, 37 people were arrested for post-Hurricane Irma looting.
Across South Florida, police departments have been grappling with burglars who are using the storm to rip off businesses and property owners. While there aren’t exact numbers yet — police departments are preoccupied with post-Irma duties — reports of looting are sprouting up.
“This all occurred during the midst of the hurricane,” Miami’s Deputy Chief Luis Cabrera said during a news conference Tuesday referring to the incident at the Shops at Midtown Miami. “These criminals took advantage of the situation and they basically terrorized our businesses during the most vulnerable stage and this is not acceptable.”
In Miami, there have been 25 arrests, six of whom were charged with hitting the Shops at Midtown Miami. Over the weekend, police released video of looters running from the stores.
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On Tuesday, Cabrera said an anonymous tip led officers to 73 NE 47th St. the day before. The caller reported seeing several men and women loading a residence and trash can up with goods.
Police secured a warrant and recovered shoe boxes, laptops, clothes and other goods from stores including Metro PCS and Foot Locker. A Foot Locker employee identified the items, Cabrera said.
“We are here to send a message to the business community that they will protected,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said.
In Little River, thieves with sledgehammers ransacked 14 business inside Junction Lofts, 7151 NE Second Ave. Among them: The Dana Agency, a public relations firm.
Dana Rhoden, the president, said she had evacuated South Florida and found out from an employee that her business was destroyed. Theives hacked the door, stole computers, a big screen television and threw files everywhere.
“Honestly, I think it’s pathetic of people taking advantage of people during a time of crisis,” she said.
In Miami Beach, police said there about three reports of commercial burglaries during Irma. Calls to other police departments, including Coral Gables, Miami Gardens, Doral, Homestead and Hialeah, were not immediately returned.
In the unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade, there were 37 looting arrests, 10 in south Dade, 26 in north Dade and one in the Intracoastal area in northeast Miami-Dade.
Robin Pinkard, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade police, said the community has been stepping up and calling in tips.
“We want to let the community know looting will not be tolerated,” Pinkard said. “It’s a crime that hurts not only the business but it hurts the community as well.”
Miami Herald Staff Writer David J. Neal contributed to this report.