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Some Facing Rising Waters Fear Looting More

July 13, 1993

WEST ALTON, Mo. (AP) _ He’s not a fan of cats, but Michael Payeur looked the other way when a straggly, black stray took refuge from the Mississippi River lapping at his porch.

The cat was his only company as he guarded the family home against the rising Mississippi - and any thieves who might take advantage of the disaster.

″There’s looters out here,″ the reserved Payeur said from the shade of his porch, stacked high with children’s toys and bicycles rescued from the yard. ″They can get in and out.″

In flooded areas up and down the Mississippi River, residents like Payeur, a 52-year-old retired asbestos worker, have refused to leave their homes when ordered to by officials, afraid that looters will take whatever they saved from the flood.

But authorities have pledged tight security in evacuated areas and there have been few reports of looting.

″We expect there will be some crime, but it’s not a popular thing to do,″ said William Moulder, chief of police in flood-swamped Des Moines, Iowa, where two reports of break-ins resulted in arrests. About 3,500 people have been asked to evacuate homes in and around that city.

Looting also hasn’t been a problem in flooded communities along the Illinois banks of the Mississippi, said Steve Quigley, spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

″People don’t cotton to strangers well,″ he said Tuesday. ″If they did find someone looting, they would be floating down the river later on.″

In Missouri, the Missouri Water Patrol, county sheriff’s departments and the National Guard are patrolling evacuated areas, often by boat.

Several hundred people are still in their homes in St. Charles County, where some 7,000 were asked to evacuate.

″It’s not only because of looters but because this is their home, this is their property, this is their life. They don’t want to leave it behind,″ said Petra Haws, spokeswoman for the county’s emergency management agency.

Other officials said people staying on in flooded areas or threatened areas are putting themselves and emergency officials in peril.

National Guard Sgt. Rayburn Graham in northeastern Missouri said he was encouraging residents who live in the Lewis County flood plain to move out, in case a levee breaks.

″We went door to door and told them, ’If you’re staying, we want your name, the number of people staying here, your address - and your next of kin,‴ Graham said.

Along with the police and National Guard presence, people are policing themselves.

″Everybody has been pretty good about watching other people’s property,″ said Lt. Mike Petrick at the Rock Island County Sheriff’s office.

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