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Martin County deputies make arrests in the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

Posted at 11:31 PM, Oct 17, 2018

Martin County deputies in the Florida Panhandle are already finding people trying to take advantage of those in a desperate situation.

The 15-member rapid response team is assisting law enforcement officers in communities devastated by Hurricane Michael.

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Sheriff William Snyder said the team has netted two arrests, chased looters and helped a family in a fire in the several days since they were deployed.

FDLE asked the Martin County Sheriff’s Office to take over law enforcement duties for two towns near Panama City Beach.

“We found law enforcement personnel up there who lost everything,” Snyder said. “They were so tired and so drained.”

Deputies arrested two men who they say stole Stihl chainsaws from a distribution center in Orlando to try to sell for at least full price on the panhandle, knowing people might buy them.

“They’re trying to get their trees of their house, they’re trying to clear their property and so they’re desperate for equipment,” Snyder said.

Now, the men are in jail.

Deputies have also responded to multiple calls for looters.

"We have chased some looters,” Snyder said, “not making arrests because they’re disappearing in these neighborhoods. It’s very dark at night.”

Snyder said his deputies were also the first on the scene of a house fire.

“A family’s house that had pretty much survived the hurricane, unfortunately, in some kind of generator mishap, they lost everything. Their house was completely destroyed. Our deputies were there to help get people out and do whatever was necessary,” Snyder said.

Cellphone service is weak and spotty, but deputies continue to try to send back pictures and updates when they can.

Snyder expects to get another update by Thursday morning.

His team could return home this weekend.

“I think as long as Martin County is there doing primary law enforcement, you’ll see more arrests.”