During my accumulated time as a mental health profession volunteer assisting at the Oso mudslide disaster, I donated well over 180 hours of volunteer work. As one can imagine, I heard a lot of heart-wrenching stories. I wish to bring to the attention of our civic leaders, an idea on how to improve how we respond to disasters, a consistent and troubling story. This situation is distressing me and many others who worked or lived or still live in Oso, Arlington or Darrington.
I learned from those working in the muddy fields, but also from numerous Snohomish County Sheriff deputies, that the “vultures” are coming out of the woodwork! Apparently crooks from our state and several others are descending on the Oso slide areas with metal detectors in hand. A common goal for these criminals, with their sophisticated tools, is to search with the intention of stealing items from this hallow ground.
I’m told this influx of thieves will be around for years and years to come. This being the case, I believe the state and our county legislative bodies should address this desecration of Oso’s sanctified land, by adding new statutes to our legal books. I know it is a crime to steal property; however, in this special case of “swiping” from this land, or any government declared disaster land, should at least be classified as a Class “C” felony! Taking from this ground should have the same legal stigma as for those who take from a national gravesite or national battle field.
There should be exceptions for men or women to work on the land or to search for personal property. This can be accomplished by the workers and or searchers first getting a limited permit from a designated regulatory county department to do so.
I am realistic enough to know a law per se will not keep every thief off this hallowed land, but it might keep some away. Plus, a clear statute will give law enforcement officers legal grounds to immediately arrest these felons. We must not stand by and let this blessed ground be desecrated!