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« Germany Gave Secret Help During Iraq Invasion | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 280 -- Young People & Support For War. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 279 -- New Orleans Crime.

New Orleans Crime: Now Houston's Problem-

It's well-established by now that Houston's crime rate spiked up immediately after Hurricane Katrina, as the city absorbed all those hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the destruction. Indeed, the Houston Chronicle noted a direct anecdotal correlation between failures in the New Orleans criminal justice system and the spike in the Houston crime rate:

...when he was released in Shreveport on Nov. 3, Harris became Houston's problem and a key figure in Houston's new crime controversy.

Harris is among 11 Katrina evacuees suspected of transferring their New Orleans turf battles to Houston and carrying out homicides, robberies and kidnappings that began after his release from Shreveport. Houston police classify the suspects as extremely violent.

But it's more than anecdotal. Check out the disaster known as the New Orleans criminal justice system.

First, note how the New Orleans arrest record doesn't match the national arrest record (.pdf):


Weak. Drug offenses are not as serious as violent offenses, or even property offenses.

Notice the lack of convictions for violent crimes (.pdf):



But this is the most damning part (.pdf):


Think about what this means. Even New Orleans' "strength" in arrests and convictions bonks at the incarceration stage. And even with so few arrests and convictions on more serious charges, New Orleans still couldn't put those folks behind bars. One might guess that the low numbers of arrests just meant police spent their resources carefully on a limited number of cases. Nope.

While the nation's crime rate fell dramatically in recent years, it rose in New Orleans. This was no accident.

The New Orleans criminal justice system, in failing to convict and incarcerate criminals, failed to protect its citizens (.pdf):

• Only 5% of all convictions in CDC were for violent offenses.

• Sixty percent (60%) of all convictions in CDC were for misdemeanor offenses, 47% for misdemeanor drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, essentially making CDC a misdemeanor court.

• Two out of three (67%) convictions were for simple drug possession.

• Only 7% of those arrested by the NOPD in 2003-2004 were eventually sentenced to prison, a 41% decrease in the incarceration rate since 1999-2000.


While some may be inclined to say "I told you so" about Mayor Bill White's welcome mat approach to the Katrina evacuees, I would just predict that Houston's crime rate will stabilize once the bad guys meet the Texas criminal justice system. It may just take another several months or more. Indeed, it's already calming down substantially:

Police say they are making inroads in dealing with a rash of violent crimes attributed mostly to New Orleans gang members who evacuated to Houston along with other hurricane victims.

They asked this week for help in finding five Katrina evacuees believed responsible for three murders and two thefts. Last month, they announced the arrests of eight others in connection with the deaths of 11 fellow evacuees.

While the city had "a huge explosion of murders" in November and December, police Sgt. Brian Harris said Friday that the homicide rate has stabilized and is up only slightly from this time last year.

He credited a growing confidence that hurricane evacuees have in Houston police and increased cooperation among law enforcement agencies in cities with large numbers of Katrina evacuees.

Failures of New Orleans' criminal justice system, not of Michael Brown or President Bush or FEMA, led to most of the pure madness and mayhem in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Madness and mayhem aren't inevitable, though. Let's see if Houston's criminal justice system can prove that.

The Metropolitan Crime Commission (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Fewer & Less Competitive Districts.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 February 2006 08:58 PM


Yikes!...Uh Will? That doesn't exactly make me feel real secure! Everyone in Houston has noticed a difference in the crime rate. I have noticed more graffity too...I'm not sure what the graffity represents. BUT I am sure it is not good.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 25, 2006 09:53 PM

"Failures of New Orleans' criminal justice system, not of Michael Brown or President Bush or FEMA, led to most of the pure madness and mayhem in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina."

You got that right. In my opinion, Louisiana is the most politically corrupt state in our Nation. It is like a dead fish, that rotted from the head down, starting back in the thirties. This has led to corruption in all levels and departments of state and local government. Blanco and Nagin should be the poster children for the abject failure of political leadership. Almost everything that happened prior to, during, and after the hurricane Katrina can be traced to their ineptitude and ignorance, including criminals still on the streets before and after the hurricane. These two could not lead piss ants to a picnic.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at February 26, 2006 07:35 AM

I agree with Will that Houston is not likely to resemble New Orleans at the end of the day. The entire gestalt is just too different.

I do have to wonder how one can blame Blanco and Nagin, specifically, for the historical ills of NOLA's CJ system (as another commenter seems to do). The social, political, and economic realities in New Orleans were complex beyond imagining, and they all combined into the toxic mess Katrina exposed.

It's a relief, Will, to read something from a Houston blogger (besides myself) that is not hysterical. I was starting to feel like I was the only one who could see how different the two cities are.

Posted by: Polimom at February 26, 2006 07:48 AM

E.B.,You can say that again! If you look at all the money these people have been given. FEMA, The Red Cross,Churches,private, and other charitable orgs.? I don't know how much per person that comes out to? BUT it looks like a nice sum??? Other hurricane and natural disaster victims seem to do what they have to do to get their community cleaned up on much less fed., state, charitable etc. assistance? WHY have these people not been out cleaning their community up? Corruption or pure dependency on the goodness of others?...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 08:05 AM

You brought several good points.
The aid to help people and rebuild New Orleans, I think like you, has been substantial given the situation. We need accountability from both the public and private sector. I don't want to see anyone go hungry and homeless after Katrina. We should feel morally compelled to make sure basic human needs are met. Here comes the "but monkey."
BUT, I get the feeling that instantly giving Mary Landrieu the $250,000,000,000.00 she is asking for up front is like taking Rosie O'Donnell and a bunch of fat girls to an "all-you-can-eat buffet." It won't take long to consume all available resources and you will get a call for another trip back to the food bar. No plan, just give me money.
Polimom, you have an arguable point about the current office-holders being responsible for historical ills of Louisiana. Metaphorically speaking, I had a amatuer boxing coach tell me, "Bailey, you ain't gonna win this fight unless you get your ass off the stool, put up your fists, go to the center of the ring, and throw some great punches." Blanco and Nagin got nowhere close to the boxing arena before, during, and after the hurricane.
Unfortunately, I lost the fight, but I tried.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at February 26, 2006 09:42 AM

EB,...The State of Louisiana over the years recieved Fed. funds that were supposed to repair and prepare the levees for a storm of Katrinas strength. Why is it that the Fed. gov. doesn't fine or attach some kind of penalty on the State of Louisiana or City of NO?...It appears the levees were never maintained properly and billions of fed. dollars over the years have been forked out with the intension of securing them? What reasons makes Louisiana or New Orleans immune to fed. laws? I would think if Texas decided to not follow fed. restrictions for following speed limits. Texas would not be given fed. money for highways?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 10:21 AM

I get the feeling that because of the emotions and the politicalization of a hurricane, few people will step up to the plate, be bold, and simply demand accountability for Federal aid. What happens if we have a major eartquake along the San Andreas or New Madras faults, major flooding along the Mississippi, volcanos popping off near a major city in the Northwest? Will the people in these areas expect to see FEMA and the Federal government on the scene acting as first responders and a magic wallet. The mindset coming out of Katrina may drive folks in these areas to setting aside plans and stop planning for future disasters. In a way, I don't like what has happened with Katrina. It has set a new standard of depency on the Federal government.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at February 26, 2006 10:55 AM

ZZ - There are so many places at which one can point for the levee failures, it's really hard to narrow it down. However, an over-arching truth is that even if the levees had been perfectly maintained, they would have failed. The design was flawed.

Along with that, the funding for the levees had actually been cut over recent years.

EB - I agree totally about the risk from the precedent being set. The single thing that makes this different (in New Orleans) is the issue of the levees, and the design failures. The responsibility for the failures belongs to the ACoE - a federal entity. Thus, the enormous push back from NOLA.

Still, it makes me very, very nervous to lay this groundwork.

Posted by: Polimom at February 26, 2006 11:12 AM

Polimom,...I would think EB's concept of handing over that kind of money to a State that has neglected to correct the design or problems is right! The image of Rosie O'Donnel and the fat girls is classic. EB, did you come up with that by your self? ... The funding that had been cut didn't go into effect so that theory doesn't really jive??? There is some obvious corruption or something not quite right? I am thinking that some change in the way the money is being handled. Obviously the State hasn't handled it right???

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 11:50 AM

Can the design not be fixed?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 11:52 AM

ZZ - they didn't know the design was flawed until the breaches blew open. It had to do with depth of pilings (and other arcane engineering knowledge, of which I claim complete ignorance... ;> )

They're apparently working on a "fix": the sections that failed had pilings FAR short of the depth required, for instance, and must be reset.

The State/City didn't build or design the levees. The Army Corps of Engineers did.

Posted by: Polimom at February 26, 2006 12:03 PM

ZZ - this google search result has lots of information about the design flaw(s):

Posted by: Polimom at February 26, 2006 12:05 PM

Polimom,...The sad fact is whatever and whom ever is to blame? There is a BIG PROBLEM. Yikes! If you ask me, if I were handing over that kind of money to a State? I would sure want to make sure it would go towards fixing the problem and not lining politicians pockets.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 12:30 PM

I have not gathered all the facts about the Mississippi River levees and those in and around New Orleans. The levees in question seemed to be under control of local levee boards which construction was contracted out and the local board was responsible for adhering to ACoE specifications. There is reason to suspect that state and local boards were corrupt and had underworld crime links. These local boards were responsible for building and inspecting to ACoE specifications. It appears at this point they may have been corrupt on the former and ignored the latter. I would not be too quick to spill all the responsiblity in the lap of the ACoE and the Bush administration. Seems like this has been mismanaged by the locals for decades.
ZZ- The old fat girl/buffet thing I had heard before in another form. I do see a vague resemblance between Rosie and Blanco. I guess beauty or the lack of is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at February 26, 2006 01:33 PM

Simply put:
ACoE designs the specifications for levees.
ACoE gives specifications to local levee board.
Local levee board applies for Federal funds to construct levees to ACoE specifications.
Local levee board gets Federal funds to build levees to ACoE specifications.
Local levee board contracts for the work.
Corruption begins.
Construction companies do not build to ACoE specifications.
Lots of our tax money goes to places not associated with levee construction.
Construction of levees is complete, but not to ACoE specifications.
Local levee board declares work complete and that it passed ACoE specifications. No inspection performed by local levee board.
Big storm comes.
You are up to your rooftop in water.
Blame ACoE and bush.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at February 26, 2006 01:51 PM

I get the feeling the Katrina victims want The President to get out and clean up their community himself? ...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 04:26 PM

EB - I agree there's plenty of blame to go around for Katrina. I've written about it - and slammed the local levee boards - more than once. But the ACoE has ownership of a fair amount of the failures there, also.

Saying that doesn't equate to putting all the blame on Bush, though. In fact, I think I must have missed something. How did he come into this particular discussion?

Posted by: Polimom at February 26, 2006 09:59 PM