August 16, 2006
After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast on August 29, Houston took in 150,000 evacuees, the most of any U.S. city. Unfortunately, the Texas coastal city's hospitality has been met with increased crime rates, say observers.
Despite Houston Mayor Bill White welcoming Katrina's survivors with a stern warning that a jail cell was waiting for anyone who crossed the line; many seemed to have ignored the warning:
- Houston police believe the evacuees are partly responsible for a nearly 17.5 percent increase in homicides so far this year over the same period in 2005.
- The sheriff's department reported a 41 percent increase in felony arrests in November 2005 from the year before.
- About 21 percent of Houston's 232 homicides through July 25 involved an evacuee as either a suspect or a victim, according to police.
Judge Robert Eckels, chief executive of Harris County, which includes Houston, said Katrina evacuees arrested in the Houston have cost the county's criminal justice system more than $18 million. In June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent $19.5 million to Houston to help pay for additional officers and overtime to police the city after Katrina.
Eckels predicted the county's worst guests will go home once their federal assistance dries up. And if many choose to stick around, the county will be ready: "We don't put up with it here. If you break the law, you're going to be prosecuted."
Source: Paul J. Weber, "Katrina Victims Blamed for Houston Crime," Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 15, 2006
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