By Peter Furlow | Rose Law Group Law Clerk
Thousands of individuals across the country took to the streets in protest following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, 46, died while being placed under arrest by police officers outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
On Saturday, Scottsdale police said that, “millions of dollars in damages and theft” occurred as a result of looting at Scottsdale Fashion Square and surrounding businesses. Consequently, 12 people were arrested and booked into jail.
In response, yesterday Gov. Doug Ducey declared a statewide emergency and issued a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all of Arizona in response to the damage that ensued in both Scottsdale and in downtown Phoenix near City Hall and the state Capitol.
Many businesses across the country are already struggling with slashed revenue and dismal earning prospects under the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. As protests and looting continue, businesses are stuck asking themselves what they can do to prevent damages to their stores.
There are several non-forceful preventive measures you can take to protect your business from looting and the damages they inflict on your business.
First, investing in security cameras and a security system for your business will offer you a better chance of gathering evidence of the looting activities. This may in turn allow law enforcement to catch the looters in the process of the crime, or after the fact through video footage. This may have the effect of dissuading others from targeting your business in the future.
Second, investing in small business insurance, including general liability insurance and property insurance may cover the loss, damage or theft of your property. This can include damage to the structure of your building as well as equipment and merchandise. While this may be an unduly burdensome cost, paying the upfront annual insurance cost to protect your business is a cheaper solution than paying several thousands of dollars out of pocket to replace your merchandise.
Last, posting a local business sign on your storefront in addition to keeping valuables out of plain view may reduce the chances that your store gets damaged. Installing fences, gates, or shutters are other possible actions that may make it more difficult for others to break into your business. While not perfect solutions, these actions may mitigate the potential that your store is targeted for theft and vandalism.
But what can you do if you are at your business when looting occurs?
In Arizona, reasonable physical force can be legally permissible to defend your business from theft. While this is in no way an endorsement of responding with force, knowing the current law is important if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation without other viable options.
Specifically, in Arizona, under ARS §13-408, a person can use reasonable physical force to prevent theft or criminal damage of property that’s currently under their control and possession. However, if only the loss of personal property is threatened, one cannot use deadly force.
To be considered reasonable force, it must be proportional. For example, responding to non-violent peaceful protests with deadly force would not be considered reasonable as it is not proportional. In fact, under ARS §13-405 you may only use deadly force if you’re faced with an immediate threat of serious physical injury or death. A threat to property is not the legal equivalent of a threat to your person.
Finally, under ARS §13-411 a person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent another’s commission of certain serious crimes. These crimes include but are not limited to; arson of an occupied structure (ARS §13-1704), burglary in the second or first degree (ARS §13-1507), and armed robbery (ARS §13-1904).
You are permitted to use this force to prevent against the commission of serious crime in any place in this state where you have a right to be. This includes your home, residence, and place of business.