Scavenging or Looting. Which is it?



mg_9313_mediumSurvival is about staying alive. Survival preparation is about acquiring the skills and supplies to survive long-term if necessary. However, no matter how much you stock up, in an extended survival situation, you are going to run out of vital necessities. So how do you get the things you need?

No matter how well you prepare, nor how much you stock up, in a long-term SHTF or even TEOTWAWKI, you are going to start running out of necessities. But a lot of those necessities still exist, and a lot of it will be near you. Any discussion of Scavenging vs. Looting is going to be predicated on moral points of view. There are some people whose emergency preparation plans consist of  stocking up on weapons with the intent of simply taking by force what they want or need. If you are one of those, I got a news flash for ya cowboy. In a long-term serious situation, you will be dead within a week or two. You may survive for a while off of those who didn’t prep, including arming themselves. But serious preppers, at least in those areas where they can, arm themselves and train to use those arms. Then of course, there are the others like you. They will want to eliminate you as competition. Attacking other armed people in an attempt to take their necessities is not conducive to long lifespan.

Anyone who has a moral compass will want to have as one of the foundation of their preps, the concept that they are doing it in the hopes of surviving long enough to return to some sort of “normal” It may simply be an eventual return to civilization such as after a serious hurricane (Katrina) or the hope of rebuilding some sort of civilized community.

So in regards to acquiring property that you need, how do you maintain a moral compass and still survive? Here is my take. Lets divide property into three classifications:

  1. Abandoned government or corporate property.
  2. Abandoned personal property
  3. Personal property in possession of individuals.

Abandoned Government or Corporate Property

To me, these two classifications are no brainers. Any abandoned government property that you need to survive is fair game. If the soldiers at your local National Guard Armory walk off and there is food, supplies or even weaponry there that you need, go for it. You tax dollars at work. In regards to corporate property, it gets a little hazy. I certainly do not advocate that you join in the looting at your local K-mart when things get stupid. But if the local office of “Corporation XYZ “has been empty for a while, there is nothing wrong about checking it out for what you might need. In a total collapse situation, corporations are going to die off anyway with no logical way for them to claim their property. Abandoned property is just that. Abandoned.

Abandoned Personal Property

Here I start drawing some limitations. Lets say for example that in a long-term SHTF situation, you and many of your neighbors have formed a self-help group for mutual support and defense. But your next door neighbors, the Smiths, have locked their place and bugged out. After weeks you haven’t heard from or about the Smiths, and you are desperate for items that may be in their house. I see nothing wrong with going into their place and taking what you need. However, I feel the right thing to do would be to keep a list with an eye to possible restitution if they return. What if you do not know who the people are that used to live there? Take what you need. They walked off and left it. It is abandoned. In regards to corpses, if a dead person has equipment and supplies on them, you do not know who they or their people are, then take what you need. They are dead, it won’t matter to them.

Personal Property in Possession of Individuals.

Here is where I finally draw a firm line. Taking the possessions of another person that they need to survive, either by subterfuge or force, is stealing, and in an emergency situation might even be construed as murder. However, if you and your group are in a position to take out a criminal, terrorist gang, that has been murdering, raping, and looting the neighborhood, then by all means, use what you capture. It’s war booty.


This is a pretty short article for a very complex subject, but here is how I see it in a nutshell: Stealing from a store or individuals in the middle of a crisis where your individual survival is not at stake is stealing and looting. Using abandoned property, either government, corporate, or individual, that you need to survive, is scavenging. Now that we have set the moral tone, there is a LOT to know about scavenging. But that’s a subject for a next article!

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One thought on “Scavenging or Looting. Which is it?

  1. Pingback: Scavenging or Looting. Which is it? | Azweaponcraftprepper

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