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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Katrina Crime Wave hits Houston

On Sept. 5, 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina The Johnsville News wrote:

...it appears that the criminal element in New Orleans will be moving on. It will be interesting to see if this exodus of refugees (politically correct: evacuees?) and the associated parasitic criminal element from New Orleans turns out anything like the 1980 Mariel Boat Lift. As cubanet.org described it:

Floods of refugees crossed the Florida Strait in 1980 during the six-month Mariel Boat Lift, when Fidel Castro temporarily lifted restrictions preventing his people from leaving their Caribbean homeland.

More than 125,000 people left Cuba; among them the "undesirables"--people from the nation's prisons and insane asylums...

It turns out that 150,000 evacuees from New Orleans ended up in Houston. This has not been good news for Houston. A Katrinna crime wave has hit the city. The murder rate has spiked.

NPR recently did a story - Houston Examines Post-Katrina Spike in Violent Crime:
Police in Houston late last year noticed an increase in homicides. At the time, they downplayed the potential role of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Now, the Houston Police Department says hurricane survivors were at least partly responsible for the spike in violence.

Reuters reported:
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Police in Houston reported a 23 percent jump in murders over the last year as the fourth largest U.S. city grappled with 150,000 evacuees from New Orleans and no extra money to cope with the influx.

Police statistics show that 336 people were murdered in Houston in 2005, compared to 273 the previous year.

The city's murder rate was already increasing before Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, city officials say, and was worsened by a staffing shortage in the police department.

Police say at least 10 of the deaths have included suspects or victims from New Orleans, a city that had one of the highest U.S. murder rates for years, leading the country in 2002 and 2003.

Houston's spike in murders came sharply into focus over the Thanksgiving holiday when 14 people were killed during the long weekend, about twice the usual number.

LA Times reported:
HOUSTON — Eight gang members who moved here from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina have been arrested as suspects in 11 slayings, police said Friday.

The arrests follow a recent surge in violence in the Houston area, which police attribute partly to Katrina evacuees. A gang unit formed two weeks ago to investigate the crime wave has linked the killings to rival New Orleans gang members trying to get a foothold in Houston.

"They basically just took their battles from New Orleans to here," Houston police spokesman John Cannon said.

Is this story really that surprising? Were criminals going to stop being criminals just because they moved? As NPR noted, Houston now offers a valuable laboratory to study how criminal behaviour is changed when the criminals are relocated.

Evacuees landed in high-crime ZIP codes [Houston Chronical, Jan. 20, 2006]
New Orleans' Crime Down, Houston's Crime Up--Is there a Katrina Link? [Crim Prof. blog]
New Orleans: Why rebuild a criminal cesspool? [TJN, Sept. 5, 2005]

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