04/18/2006

Crime in New Orleans dropped after Hurricane Katrina

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS- Crime in New Orleans dropped dramatically during the last three months of 2005 due to a smaller post-Hurricane Katrina population, police said.

Nine homicides took place in October, November and December, compared with 64 for the last three months of 2004.

At the same time, police in Houston, which took in about 200,000 Louisiana residents left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, reported that their crime rate had increased.

All violent crimes in New Orleans, including murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and armed and simple robberies, were down 89 percent from a total of 1,085 during the fourth quarter in 2004 to 115 during the same time in 2005, police said.

The overall crime rate dropped 68 percent. Nonviolent crimes were down 64 percent to 2,071.

The figures do not include 1,548 storm-related reports of property crime, such as looting and vandalism, police said. Many of those property reports were later discounted when investigators discovered the homes had been broken into by rescuers searching for victims, and residents later reported no missing property, Police Superintendent Warren Riley said.

Riley said the lull in crimes will inch up as the city's population returns.

"Obviously, our population was very low at that time," Riley said. "We had a few thousand National Guardsmen in town and officers from around the country."

Riley said police manpower continues to dwindle. The department lost about 200 officers to desertion during and after the Katrina crisis, another 100 are out sick or injured and dozens have resigned to work for other agencies, Riley said.

There are about 1,395 officers on the streets, Riley said.

In Houston, the murder rate between the Katrina refugees' arrival in September and March was up nearly 32 percent from the same period a year ago, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt announced recently. He said some of that is attributable to Katrina refugees, but added: "I don't mean to send the message that all Katrina evacuees are involved in drug dealing, gangs and violent offenses."

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