Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Myth of the Katrina Criminals

I am not sold on the idea that 100,000 or so displaced Louisianians in Houston are to blame for that city’s crime problems.

Yes, homicides are up in Houston:
As of Oct. 16, the city had recorded 316 homicides, up 25 percent from the 252 slayings at this time last year. The Houston Police Department said an uptick in homicides by Hurricane Katrina evacuees has contributed to that increase.

"We recognize that the homicide rate is up as far as raw numbers and as well as percentages relative to the population," said Capt. Dwayne Ready. "We also recognize that Katrina evacuees continue to have an impact on the murder rate."
But overall crime is down in Houston:
Per capita crime, defined as the number of crimes per 100,000 residents, has decreased in the city, with the violent crime rate down 3 percent this year.
And crime is down in the surrounding areas:
Houston-area suburbs saw crime rates drop in five of six counties last year, according to the latest statistics released by the Texas Department of Public Safety.


The types of crimes counted in the report are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
The first article cites 65 murders this year “classified as Katrina-related, meaning either the victim, suspect or both evacuated to Houston after Katrina.” I fail to see how being killed in another city contributes to the crime problem there. What I am more interested in is the exact number of how many suspects in those murders were Katrina evacuees or how many of the Katrina evacuee victims were involved in illegal activities when they were killed.

Even if all the Louisianians involved in the “Katrina-related” murders were criminals, I still fail to see how an entire population can be considered criminals for the crimes committed by the actual criminals among them. That’s exactly what some Houston residents were saying back in August when they were asking for “the New Orleans residents to go home.”

Those same residents are still spreading the Myth of the Katrina Criminal:
Another tenant, who broke his lease and left because of problems he blames on the Katrina evacuees, such as vandalism and drug activity, so feared for his family's safety while living at the complex that he considered buying a gun.

"It was the worst several months of my life, actually, living there," said Chris Ostapowicz, who started a Web page called "The Crap At Lakeside."


"I know what it was like before (the evacuees arrived) and I know what it was like after. And it's dramatically different," said Walnut Bend resident Brenda Mueller, whose property abuts the apartment complex. "It's gotten to the point that I'm afraid to let my child play in the backyard now."

Her neighbor Ken Chance said he is planning to sell his home of 29 years though he has not experienced any violent crime firsthand.

"I truly believe it's just a matter of time before we start experiencing the break-ins," Chance said.

While crime at the apartments has always been cyclical, Rench said, "I truly am concerned it could get worse very easily and very quickly."
These residents share the perception that the displaced Louisianians are causing a rise in criminal activity. They long for the good old days before “they” came, back when their neighborhood was safer.

Or was it?
Their concerns are not without some foundation. Houston Police Department statistics show the frequency of crime at 10950 Briar Forest — and the number of times police have been called there — increased in the year after the storm.

But it was not as if those numbers soared to unprecedented levels. Rather, they virtually equaled statistics recorded two years earlier — well before Hurricane Katrina struck.
So, overall crime is down in Houston and virtually the same as two years ago in one specific neighborhood that was very vocal about their fear of the displaced Louisianians among them. The overall crime numbers don’t seem to support the Myth of the Katrina Criminal.

But what about those higher homicide numbers? Well, I’ve got an alternative explanation for the rise in murders. More people are being murdered in Houston because there are more people for Houston drug dealers to murder:
A Houston man described by police as "a new breed of killer" is charged or suspected in at least seven homicides in 11 weeks stemming from a war between entrenched Houston drug dealers and their newly arrived rivals from New Orleans.


Investigators say that Williams' killing spree began June 16, only 23 days after his release from prison, where he had served nearly two years on a drug conviction. By Sept. 1, police say, Williams had shot at least eight people, killing seven, all but one within the same two blocks of northwest Houston.
I also suspect that some of the murders here in New Orleans may be attributed to new, more sophisticated and more deadly techniques that local drug dealers learned after making new alliances with bigger, more organized dealers in some of the larger cities, like Houston, that they evacuated to.

But that’s just speculation at this point. I’m not ready to say THANKS HOUSTON for deadlier drug dealers just yet.


Donnie McDaniel said...

That's one big hammer you used to drive that nail! I just know that if we had the means to house and set up each and everyone of the evacuees and got them all out of there right now, the myth would continue. They will be blamed for all that is bad about Houston for years to come. How many other cities are claiming the same BS as them?

Sophmom said...

Great post.

Tommy S. said...

I always thought it quite peculiar that 100,000 apartments just so happened to be vacant right after Katrina.

There had to be a reason for such vast amount of available housing.

Not even the locals wanted to live there.

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