Mayor Sylvester Turner has just imposed a curfew within Houston city limits from midnight to 5 a.m., effective immediately tonight. It will remain in effect until further notice.
Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo said looters have been targeting flooded-out homes as thousands of Houston residents have been evacuated and are now in shelters; there have been various reports of armed robbers; and traffic on the street after dark is not making things easier for ongoing high-water rescue operations.
"Quite frankly, no one needs to be on the road and out from [midnight] to 5," Turner said. "There are too many people from [midnight] to 5 out of their homes and in shelters. I don’t want them to have to worry about someone breaking into their home or looting while they are away. And the reality is, there are some people who might be inclined to take advantage of this situation."
Turner originally had set the curfew at 10 a.m. but changed it to midnight around 7:40 "to allow volunteers and others to do their great work," he said on Twitter. Mayor's office spokesman Alan Bernstein said first responders, volunteers, shelter seekers, news media and overnight workers will be exempt from the curfew.
Acevedo said law enforcement made the recommendation to Turner and he accepted. Unless people have a legitimate need to be on the road, Acevedo said they should expect to get pulled over and possibly be subject to questioning, search and arrest.
"We've had instances of looting; we've had armed robbers going around yesterday robbing our community, victimizing them again. Harvey wasn't enough, and these lowlives are doing this to our community. We have a lot of threats not only in terms of security but safety. And lastly, we still have a lot of active search and rescue going on that is dangerous enough in the daylight and even more dangerous at night, and the last thing we need is to have that additional traffic."
Acevedo said more detailed information will be released around 8 p.m. regarding how the curfew will be enforced. He said officers will be using their discretion in enforcement of the curfew.
Acevedo and Turner also cautioned against people impersonating law enforcement officers in khakis and black shirts that say "HSI," telling people in hard-hit Kingwood that they're under a mandatory evacuation order because the dam's going to break — all of which is untrue.
On the rescue front, thousands of evacuees continue to pour into the city's shelters. More than 10,000 people are currently sheltered at the George R. Brown Convention Center, with thousands more scattered at various shelters across Houston. Turner announced that Toyota Center is now opening its doors as another big shelter to relieve the overcrowding at the GRB.
The GRB is so crowded, in fact, that it is no longer accepting clothes and supplies at the doors. Instead, people who would like to donate clothes and supplies to the evacuees must now drop off the items at the BBVA Compass Stadium in East Downtown. "The support of the Houston community has just been overwhelming," Turner said.
He urged people to think about how many kids are in these shelters and to bring coloring books and toys, too. While the clothing stock is looking pretty good, the shelters are in extra need of XL and XXL sizes.
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In addition, more than 2,000 people are set to be evacuated from Kingswood — one of the hardest-hit areas of Houston — to the Humble Civic Center, Turner said.
Last, Turner addressed the death of one of Houston's own police officers, Sergeant Steve Perez, who drowned in high water at the Hardy Toll Road and I-45. He was on his way to the police station. Acevedo had confirmed Perez's death in an emotional press conference Tuesday afternoon, saying he was "a sweet, gentle public servant," and a man of faith.
At the end of the press conference, Turner said the sun had finally come out to shine in Perez's honor.
"They say this too shall pass, and after the clouds pass, the sun will shine. I think it reflects that, in this city, regardless of the storm clouds, regardless of the rain, the sun will shine," he said. "People are wary of the storm. They've gone through some dramatic situations. Today we announced the death of Sergeant Perez, and on this day, the sun came out. I'm just gonna say the good Lord did it in honor of Sergeant Perez, to let us know, even in our worst moments, there is still hope, and we will still rise. Anyone who underestimates the spirit of this city, that person does not know Houston."