“They just snatched my purse out of my hands and ran. ... It was all we had.”

CALLAWAY — As Victoria Smith slept with her four children in their Callaway townhome, she clutched her purse to her chest.

Left powerless by the massive infrastructure damage of Hurricane Michael days earlier, she left the front door open to allow a breeze in the warm October night. In a deep sleep, what Smith thought she had guarded against happened.

“I must’ve been so exhausted from everything in the past days I didn’t hear them come in,” she said Monday morning. “They just snatched my purse out of my hands and ran. ... It was all we had.”

In the days since the most powerful hurricane to make landfall along the Panhandle devastated Bay County, authorities have seen a shift in emergency calls. What days ago were calls to cut limbs and check welfare have turned into violent crimes.

Smith thought it could be a combination of her neighborhood’s “every man for himself” mentality and a lack of readily available resources.

“No one has come to offer us any help,” she said. “It’s crazy, and there’s no way out.”

In some areas of the county, spray painted signs face the road, stating “You steal, we kill.” Disregarding the ominous message, some have taken the risk.

Bay County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jimmy Stanford said that since the Oct. 10 afternoon landfall of Hurricane Michael, deputies have arrested about 10 suspected looters every night. The looters have been targeting homes and businesses, he said.

And almost all the time, they are armed.

“Most our officers lost their homes, have been working 16- to 18-hour shifts with no sleep, no shower; and now they’re encountering armed individuals,” Stanford said. “It’s a stressful time for everyone in Bay County.”

One business that saw looting was Cooper’s Drugs near Bay Medical Sacred Heart. Danny Cottrell, co-owner of Cooper’s, had movers collecting salvageable items Monday afternoon. He said the first night after landfall one of his pharmacists rushed over to catch some presumptive looters in time to intervene. While a bunch of medication had been destroyed by Hurricane Michael, Cottrell wanted what was of value to go to those in need.

“We don’t want those drugs on the street,” he said.

Stanford said with the influx of resources and outside officers to the area, authorities hope to quell lawlessness.

By Sunday night, only one presumptive looter had been arrested on the east side of the county. The action seemed to shift, though, to the beach. Officers arrested nine suspected looters, Stanford said.

With the activity shifting, Stanford said the presence of law enforcement in east Bay County will remain at its current state. Despite seemingly bleak circumstances, generosity among neighbors is helping morale, he said.

“All of our neighbors are helping each other and that’s great,” Stanford said. “Sometimes you just have to realize we’re all in a bad situation.”