|Has Martial Law been declared in Tuscaloosa?|
One of the worst tornadoes in recorded history decimated Tuscaloosa last week. Though the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death and prompt burial at sea was a nice diversion from reality, the town (and much of Northern Alabama) is in bad shape.
‘We have a very sound curfew ordinance based on practical experiences from other cities,’ Mayor Walt Maddox said. ‘Overall, I think we have a very effective tool that will help us reduce juvenile crime.’
The curfew applies to people younger than 18 with some exceptions. They will be forbidden to be in public places between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The curfew also covers Tuscaloosa city school system scheduled hours.
The curfew was recommended as part of the mayor’s Hope Initiative, an effort to improve impoverished and crime-ridden areas. City officials say a disproportionate amount of crime is committed by juveniles after 10 p.m.
The ordinance also prohibits parents from allowing their children to violate the curfew ordinance. And business owners can be fined for having minors on their premises during nighttime curfew hours.
Take, for example, Alabama, which was hit the hardest by the storm. More than 1 in 6 people live in poverty, including 1 in 4 children, according to the Alabama Poverty Project. The state has the second largest income gap in the nation between the richest and the poorest. More than 40 percent of residents are high-school dropouts. And, it’s the second hungriest state in the nation.
Who exactly are we talking about? As the accompanying map shows, a number of the faces behind these statistics are African-American, a community that was already struggling to get by before the storm’s winds turned their lives upside down. The national unemployment rate for African-Americans is at 15.5 percent; in some areas, it’s near depression levels.
Looters are hampering attempts by ordinary residents to get their lives back on track in the tornado-ravaged city state of Alabama.
Police imposed an 8pm curfew in the areas affected and military police began patrolling the streets amid reports of burglaries in homes and stolen cars.
Those residents who chose to stayed behind were forced to mount a 24-hour guard to stop their belongings from being taken from their stricken houses.
The lootings cast a shadow over the otherwise positive response from community in Alabama, which was the worst affected by the tragedy.
Military sources confirmed that looting had been taking place but that it was ‘far less frequent than we expected’.
‘There are some people who are using this as a chance to take something for themselves,’ the source said.
Shirley Long, from Tuscaloosa, where 42 people died, was a victim of the scavengers.She said: ‘The first night they took my jewellery, my watch, my guns.
‘They were out here again last night doing it again.’
Steve Smith 54, also from Tuscaloosa, said that a thief had tried to steal his car.
‘Somebody had a go at breaking the lock then broke in and took everything,’ he said.
‘A lot of my neighbours have gone but I’ve got nowhere to go. We are having to stay up and keep guard 24 hours a day to stop people coming and helping themselves.
‘A lot of the front doors were kicked off by rescuers so there’s nothing to stop thieves.’