As earthquake survivors struggle to salvage what is left of their belongings, others are trying to get there first.
That is why Italy is cracking down on looting, with increased police patrols on the shattered streets of L’Aquila and an announcement from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In his latest daily press conference from the ruined region, he said a specific offence of looting would be created under Italian law. “This offence will be punished very severely because whoever stoops to acting in this way at a tragic moment like this is showing a total absence of morality,” Berlusconi told reporters. With many churches severely damaged, efforts are underway to safeguard the local religious heritage. The clergy knows there is no time to lose with reports that people have converged on the area from across the country, attracted by the prospect of easy pickings. Valuable objects and everyday items are clearly a temptation. Police have now questioned dozens of people in their anti-looting crackdown. And stealing is not security forces’ only concern as they try to protect residents returning to rummage through the rubble. Many buildings are unsafe and, for now, must remain out of bounds to the public.