Looting

Looting

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Looting—also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

, or rioting. The term is also used in a broader sense, to describe egregious instances of theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

 and embezzlement
Embezzlement
Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating or secreting assets by one or more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted....

, such as the "plundering" of private or public assets by corrupt or greedy authorities.
Looting is loosely distinguished from scavenging by the objects taken; scavenging implies taking of essential items such as food, water, shelter, or other material needed for survival while looting implies items of luxury or not necessary for survival such as art work, precious metal
Precious metal
A precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economic value.Chemically, the precious metals are less reactive than most elements, have high lustre, are softer or more ductile, and have higher melting points than other metals...

s or other valuables. The proceeds of all these activities can be described as loot, plunder, or pillage.

War looting


Looting originally referred primarily to the plundering of villages and cities not only by victorious troops during warfare, but also by civilian members of the community (for example, see War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

, which describes widespread looting by Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

's citizens before Napoleon's troops enter the town, and looting by French troops elsewhere; also note the looting of art treasures by the Nazis
Nazi plunder
Nazi plunder refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military...

 during WWII). Piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 is a form of looting organized by ships on the high seas outside the control of a sovereign government. The Hague Convention of 1907
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

 and the Fourth Geneva Convention
Fourth Geneva Convention
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians...

 of 1949, both explicitly ban "pillage" by hostile armies. A common way to avoid this is to establish Custodian of Enemy Property
Custodian of Enemy Property
The Custodian of Enemy Property is an institution that handles property claims created by war. In wartime,civilian property may be left behind or taken by the occupying state. In ancient times, such property was considered war loot, and the legal right of the winner...

, which handle the property until it can be returned.

Archaeological removals


Looting can also refer to antiquities
Antiquities
Antiquities, nearly always used in the plural in this sense, is a term for objects from Antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt and the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures...

 formerly removed from countries by outsiders, such as some of the contents of Egyptian tombs which were transported to museums in Europe. Other examples include the obelisks of Pharaoh Amenhotep II
Amenhotep II
Amenhotep II was the seventh Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. Amenhotep inherited a vast kingdom from his father Thutmose III, and held it by means of a few military campaigns in Syria; however, he fought much less than his father, and his reign saw the effective cessation of hostilities...

, in the (Oriental Museum, University of Durham, United Kingdom), Pharaoh Ptolemy IX, (Philae
Philae
Philae is an island in the Nile River and the previous site of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex in southern Egypt...

 Obelisk, in Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom). Recent controversies include the major part of the architectural sculptures adorning the Parthenon
Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their virgin patron. Its construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although...

, often called the "Elgin Marbles
Elgin Marbles
The Parthenon Marbles, forming a part of the collection known as the Elgin Marbles , are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures , inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens...

", removed by Lord Elgin
Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin
Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine was a Scottish nobleman and diplomat, known for the removal of marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. Elgin was the second son of Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin and his wife Martha Whyte...

, later sold to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, and claimed by Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 that they should be returned.

Looting of industry


In the aftermath of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Soviet forces had engaged in systematic plunder of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, including the Recovered Territories
Recovered Territories
Recovered or Regained Territories was an official term used by the People's Republic of Poland to describe those parts of pre-war Germany that became part of Poland after World War II...

 which were to be transferred to Poland, stripping it of valuable industrial equipment, infrastructure and factories and sending them to the Soviet Union.

Measures against looting


During a disaster, police and military authorities are sometimes unable to prevent looting when they are overwhelmed by humanitarian or combat concerns, or cannot be summoned due to damaged communications infrastructure. Especially during natural disasters, some people find themselves forced to take what is not theirs in order to survive. How to respond to this is often a dilemma for the authorities. In other cases, looting may be tolerated or even encouraged by authorities for political or other reasons.

By conquerors



  • Following the death of Valentinian III
    Valentinian III
    -Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

     in 455
    455
    Year 455 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Valentinianus and Anthemius...

    , the Vandals
    Vandals
    The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

     invaded and extensively looted the city of Rome
    Rome
    Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

    .
  • Mahmud of Ghazni
    Mahmud of Ghazni
    Mahmud of Ghazni , actually ', was the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty who ruled from 997 until his death in 1030 in the eastern Iranian lands. Mahmud turned the former provincial city of Ghazni into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire which covered most of today's Iran,...

     repeatedly plundered the temple cities of Somnath
    Somnath
    The Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. Somnath means "The Protector of Moon God". The Somnath Temple is known as "the Shrine Eternal", having been destroyed...

    , Mathura, Kannauj
    Kannauj
    Kannauj , also spelt Kanauj, is a city, administrative headquarters and a municipal board or Nagar Palika Parishad in Kannauj district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The city's name is traditionally derived from the term Kanyakubja . Kannauj is an ancient city, in earlier times the capital...

     etc of India between 1000 A.D and 1027 A.D.
  • After the siege of Constantinople in 1204
    Siege of Constantinople (1204)
    The Siege of Constantinople occurred in 1204; it destroyed parts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire as it was confiscated by Western European and Venetian Crusaders...

    , the crusaders looted the city and transferred its riches to Italy.
  • Roman Catholic troops of Imperial Field Marschal Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly committed the Sack of Magdeburg
    Sack of Magdeburg
    The Sack of Magdeburg refers to the siege and subsequent plundering of the largely Protestant city of Magdeburg by the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic League during the Thirty Years' War...

     in 1631. Magdeburg's civilian population was quickly reduced from 30,000 to 5,000, giving rise to the new term magdeburgisiren (modern spelling magdeburgisieren, "to magdeburgize") in German as a synonym for utter annihilation by means of grossest atrocities.
  • In 1664 the Maratha leader Shivaji sacked and looted Surat
    Surat
    Surat , also known as Suryapur, is the commercial capital city of the Indian state of Gujarat. Surat is India's Eighth most populous city and Ninth-most populous urban agglomeration. It is also administrative capital of Surat district and one of the fastest growing cities in India. The city proper...

    .
  • During World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

    , both Nazi Germany
    Nazi Germany
    Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

     and the Empire of Japan
    Empire of Japan
    The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

     engaged in massive and systematic looting of valuables worth tens of billions of dollars
    United States dollar
    The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

    . See:
    • Nazi plunder
      Nazi plunder
      Nazi plunder refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military...

    • Yamashita's gold
      Yamashita's gold
      Yamashita's gold, also referred to as the Yamashita treasure, is the name given to the alleged war loot stolen in Southeast Asia by Japanese forces during World War II and hidden in caves, tunnels and underground complexes in the Philippines. It is named for the Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita,...


By others

  • In 1977 the New York Blackout
    New York City blackout of 1977
    The New York City blackout of 1977 was an electricity blackout affected most of New York City from July 13, 1977 to July 14, 1977. The only neighborhoods in New York City that were not affected were in southern Queens, and neighborhoods of the Rockaways, which are part of the Long Island Lighting...

     resulted in massive rioting and looting throughout the city of New York
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

    .
  • In 1989 during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, there was massive systematic looting including office towers organized by the Dignity Battalions
    Dignity Battalions
    The Dignity Battalions were paramilitary combatants created by Panama's military government in the 1980s to help train workers and farmers to defend Panama against invasion by the United States...

    . Manuel Noriega
    Manuel Noriega
    Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno is a Panamanian politician and soldier. He was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.The 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States removed him from power; he was captured, detained as a prisoner of war, and flown to the United States. Noriega was tried on...

     is called the Father of modern looting.
  • In 1992, during the Rodney King
    Rodney King
    Rodney Glen King is an American best known for his involvement in a police brutality case involving the Los Angeles Police Department on March 3, 1991...

     riots, widespread looting
    1992 Los Angeles riots
    The 1992 Los Angeles Riots or South Central Riots, also known as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest were sparked on April 29, 1992, when a jury acquitted three white and one hispanic Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King following a...

     occurred in Los Angeles, California
    Los Angeles, California
    Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

    .
  • After the United States occupied Iraq
    2003 invasion of Iraq
    The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

    , the absence of Iraqi police and the reluctance of the U.S. to act as a police force enabled looters to raid homes and businesses, especially in Baghdad
    Baghdad
    Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

    , most notably the Iraqi National Museum. During the looting, many hospitals were stripped of nearly all supplies. However, upon investigation many of the looting claims were in fact exaggerated. Most notably the Iraqi National Museum in which many curators had stored important artifacts in the vaults of Iraq's central bank.
  • In 2005 in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

     there was massive looting by some people desperate for food, with police being accused of joining in in some cases. Many were in search of food and water that were not available to them through any other means, as well as non-essential items such as beer and televisions.
  • In 2010 after the Haiti earthquake
    2010 Haiti earthquake
    The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks...

    , slow distribution of the relief aid and the large number of affected people created concerns of civil unrest, marked by looting and mob justice against suspected looters.
  • During the 2011 London riots, gangs of youths undertook looting in a number of areas across the capital. It has been suggested that rioting may have been organised but it is unclear by whom, and to what end. London was last subjected to looting by gangs of youths who took advantage of war damage during the Second World War. The 2011 London looting was copied on subsequent nights in other cities around England, including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Sources

  • Abudu, Margaret, et al., "Black Ghetto Violence: A Case Study Inquiry into the Spatial Pattern of Four Los Angeles Riot Event-Types," 44 Social Problems 483 (1997)
  • Curvin, Robert and Bruce Porter, Blackout Looting (1979)
  • Dynes, Russell & Enrico L. Quarantelli, "What Looting in Civil Disturbances Really Means," in Modern Criminals 177 (James F. Short, Jr. ed. 1970)
  • Green, Stuart P., http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=917440"Looting, Law, and Lawlessness," 81 Tulane Law Review
    Tulane Law Review
    The Tulane Law Review, a publication of the Tulane University Law School, was founded in 1916, and is currently published six times annually. The Law Review has an international circulation and is one of few American law reviews carried by law libraries in the United Kingdom.-History:The Law Review...

    1129 (2007)]
  • Mac Ginty, "Looting in the Context of Violent Conflict: A Conceptualisation and Typology," 25 Third World Quarterly 857 (2004)