Quesnel wants stiffer penalties for 'lowlifes' who loot during evacuations

Quesnel Coun. Ron Paull says laws need to be toughened up to dissuade criminals from trespassing in, looting from and vandalizing property left vacant due to evacuation orders.

'We felt there had to be stiffer penalties to more appropriately suit the level of the crime'

In Williams Lake, several people were nabbed for breaking into homes during the 2017 evacuations. (Simon Hergott)

B.C. is currently wracked by floods, but Quesnel City Council is looking ahead to wildfire season — and the associated risk of looting.

Quesnel Coun. Ron Paull says laws need to be toughened up to dissuade criminals from trespassing in, looting from and vandalizing property left vacant due to evacuation orders.

"We noted the fines and the penalties for this type of crime isn't any different than normal, everyday crime," Paull told Daybreak North guest host Audrey McKinnon.

"We felt there had to be stiffer penalties to more appropriately suit the level of the crime."

Paull wrote a motion passed first by Quesnel council and then the North Central Local Government Association.

It calls on the federal and provincial governments to strengthen penalties, as they see fit, for any crimes committed during emergency situations.

In 2017, several people were charged for breaking into homes left vacant by the record-setting fires.

"There were even people that were caught impersonating wildfire or emergency personnel," Paull said.

Paull says he understands protecting human safety comes before catching "lowlifes coming in through the back on their quads" but he wants something done.

"This is, for me … terribly frustrating. That's why we put this resolution forward."

With files from CBC Radio One's Daybreak North

Listen to the full interview:

City councillor Ron Paull explains why he thinks harsher penalties are needed to prevent theft in evacuation zones during disasters. 6:46