Police are warning that anyone caught stealing from flood-affected areas could face up to 10 years in prison after a man was arrested in Gympie as floodwaters threatened parts of the town for the second time in months.
Police allege a 20-year-old man was attempting to break into a closed Mary Street business about 4.20pm on Saturday, less than two hours before the Mary River was expected to peak at 16.01m.
Police allege the owner of the store spotted him and called out, prompting the man to flee the area.
Officers arrested the man later on Saturday evening and he was charged with one count of entering premises with intent to commit an indictable offence.
He was allowed bail to face Gympie Magistrates Court on May 30.
Investigators want to speak to a woman who may have been with the man at the time.
Police said they were working to "disrupt and prevent opportunistic thieves" who may be targeting those areas that have already fallen victim to flooding.
"Belongings in flood-affected areas are private property, regardless of whether they're in homes or on the street," a police spokesman said.
'Expect police to track you down'
Police launched an operation to target potential looters when the town was flooded in late February.
Operation Uniform Nash aimed to prevent looting and property crime covering flood-struck regions from Maryborough in the north to the Gold Coast.
Commissioner Katarina Carroll said at the time there would be "zero tolerance" for such offences.
"I cannot overstate how disappointed and disgusted I am that this has occurred in areas where people have had to leave their houses," Commissioner Carroll said.
"Our message to anyone thinking about stealing from homes or businesses is that you can expect police to track you down and ensure you are held responsible for your actions."
Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig said the weekend's flood event – which was about six metres below the February peak – would still cost the region tens of millions of dollars.
The Bruce Highway north and south of Gympie was cut on Saturday but reopened on Sunday.