Sheriff Mike Robinson will seek approval Monday to ask the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol the Missouri River for looters in boats.
The Coast Guard has closed the river to boat traffic, leaving the responsibility to enforce the river closing and spot looters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
But Rodney Hansen, a local Fish and Wildlife officer, said the river here is too dangerous for his agency's only boat to protect Washington County shores, a Boston Whaler.
Local game wardens also are busy evacuating Desoto Wildlife Refuge buildings and giving flood help in Harrison County, Iowa.
"We could always use more assistance," Hansen said.
The Coast Guard could send a large boat to patrol the river between Washington and Harrison counties, Coast Guard spokesman Ancil Brown said in St. Louis.
"Looting is a concern," he agreed, "but we haven't had a request."
The Sheriff's Office has no reports of looting yet.
But property owners such as Richard Hunt, who has been forced to evacuate his $3 million riverfront estate, is concerned.
"I'd be out there myself with a shotgun if I could," Hunt said.
Instead, his 40-year-old female caretaker is armed if a looter appears. "She's tough. You'd be making a big mistake if you try to tangle with her," Hunt warned.
State emergency managers must approve Robinson's plea for Coast Guard help.
The Coast Guard would only be able to enforce the river closing where the Missouri River was before it flooded. "Our jurisdiction is bank to bank," Brown clarified.
The Coast Guard lacks authority to make arrests for local laws such as trespass and burglary.
That leaves the Sheriff's Office alone to patrol for looters in boats on lands where the river has flooded.
The sheriff has a single 24-foot boat with a 200-horsepower motor.
We patrol on days when we have the manpower," Robinson said. "But obviously we don't have the manpower."