PACIFIC JUNCTION, IOWA (KMTV) — After Pacific Junction washed out in March and residents were eventually let back in, nearly every house was unlivable, leaving the town vulnerable.
"It was the literally the wild west for anybody that wanted to come and take things,” says Kimberly O’Connor, Pacific Junction resident.
Just days after the town opened back up, residents started to notice things missing. Chainsaws, tools, scrap metal, batteries were even stripped from lawn mowers.
All of it a punch in the gut to folks who already lost so much
"There was some people that lost generators and power washers and, you know, the things we were using to try and get things cleaned up!" says O’Connor.
Occasionally the Mills County Sheriff's Office and the Iowa State Patrol would drive down the streets and try and make sure everything was okay, but things were still getting stolen.
So the residents, began to take matters into their own town.
"There were citizens that were either staying down here or taking their own time to drive around or sit and watch during the night for people here that probably shouldn't be,” says O’Connor.
Along with the vigilantes driving around, lights and cameras were set up around town.
The residents patrolling the streets, have no real power, but if they see something, they say something, to the Mills County Sheriff’s Office.
"Bless their hearts, they wind up staying up half the night, keeping an eye out, and they're still going to work during the day,” says O’Connor.
It seems like it paid off.
Last week, five people were arrested for burglaries in Pacific Junction and Friday, the sheriff’s office says they found seven more men and women suspected of burglary in the same small town.
Still, at least one longtime resident is hesitant to rebuild her home, until law enforcement or private security patrol at night, watching out for potential burglars.
"Unless I can get it all done and live here while I do it, there's nothing to protect my new stuff from being stolen, so I'm not going to start until after I know there is at least basic security here,” says O’Connor.