Frank Williams of Brunswick, Georgia, made the choice Thursday morning to evacuate his home.
“You’re always concerned when you leave when you know a hurricane’s coming. You always are,” he says.
That choice turned out to be a good one. He came home Sunday to discover his car, yard and roof wrecked by a massive tree that Hurricane Matthew blew over.
But for dozens of other Glynn County evacuees returning home, their discoveries are of a different nature—a criminal one.
“We typically have about 40 burglaries a month. We’ve had 35 in the last three days,” says Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering.
Doering revealed Monday they’ve seen a spike in those crimes since Hurricane Matthew. He says the majority of the burglaries are happening in evacuated homes on the mainland.
Doering says of the suspects who are taking advantage of those who evacuated: “They’re despicable people.”
At least two of the burglaries occurred on St. Simons Island, Doering says, despite there being police blocking the entrance.
One Glynn County official pointed out that not everyone evacuated there. But with those island residents who did evacuate being allowed back home Tuesday, Doering expects there may be more burglary reports. He’s asked for extra resources. Already, 55 military police have been called to help the 100-officer department, and more back-ups are coming from other agencies.
“We are doing everything we can to focus on our patrol in our neighborhoods, day and night,” Doering says of the 400-square-mile county.
“It’s sad our society has come to this,” says Mike Stapleman, who lives next door to Frank Williams. Stapleman just got home Monday from the evacuation. His home wasn’t burglarized, but he knows he’s lucky.
“It very well could’ve been,” Stapleman says.
“I would’ve been mad, I would. Yes. I would’ve been upset.”
Williams feels for those who return home and find their sense of normalcy stolen by Hurricane Matthew—and their items stolen, too.