A state senator announced legislation Wednesday that would expand penalties for looting during a declared state of emergency.

Currently, looters are subject to established criminal penalties such as burglary, robbery and theft, according to a news release from Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, who proposed the bill.

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Such offenses would carry greater weight when committed during a declared state of emergency, according to Buono’s bill. Looting during a declared state of emergency would be considered as an aggravating circumstance during sentencing.

“In the aftermath of the storm, accounts of looting in numerous New Jersey communities left many property owners feeling vulnerable, anxious and hesitant to leave areas made unsafe by the destruction wrought by Sandy,” the release said “By staying behind to protect their worldly possessions they increased the likelihood of placing themselves and their families further into harm's way.”

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