Houston's Katrina Crimewave
According to the Houston Chronicle Mayor Bill White is seeking funds from FEMA to pay police overtime after a spike in crime attributed, in part, to Kartina evacuees.
From the Chronicle:
Concerned by a spike in homicides and other violent crime in certain neighborhoods, Houston Mayor Bill White Monday called on FEMA to fund a $6.5 million task force to focus on "hot spots" for crime.
While White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt emphasized that the uptick in crime is not solely attributable to Hurricane Katrina evacuees, White said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should pay the bill because of the strain the 100,000 to 150,000 new residents have put on the Houston Police Department.
Houston Police Department has created Neighborhood Enforcement Team Task Force to help curb the crime. Houston has asked FEMA to pay for the program. (You can read more about the Task Force here.)
The task force is the second program to increase police presence that the city has unveiled in recent weeks, amid concerns about manpower and a swelling homicide rate — up nearly 25 percent over last year and 70 percent this month.Analysis: This makes sense. When I did some googling on this issue, I found some fairly repugnant postings attributing the race of the evacuees to the crime spike. Race doesn't have anything to do with it. You add over a 100,000 people to a city, and you are going to have a corresponding increase in crime. The problem isn't race. It's that the federal government is breaking new ground with this issue.
Many of the problem areas fall in southwest Houston, particularly in apartment complexes housing numerous Katrina evacuees, White and Hurtt said.
"Crime is unacceptable, especially the murder rate, in some of these hot spots," White said. "We had criminals here before the evacuation and we had some more criminals here after the evacuation."
The task force will be staffed by officers working overtime between Jan. 1 and July. Their work load will be equivalent to adding 150 officers to the force, Hurtt said.
Katrina evacuees have been linked to at least eight of the 121 homicides in the city since they began arriving in September, Hurtt said.
FEMA's funding mechanism is designed for disaster response, not instituting community policing programs. However, Houston's program directly stems from the disaster, and the federal government is asking a city to do something that it has never really done before: take responsibility for the long-term care of people who are not citizens of the City or State where they were evacuated to. The evacuees aren't leaving any time soon, if ever. Houston is stuck with providing care and services for the duration.
I wonder what other upsurge in costs Houston is experiencing. Judging from the evacuees poverty level, I'm guessing that there has also been an upsurge in unpaid medical costs. Are they going to ask FEMA to pay for this to?
Mayor White said if the Feds don't come through then he is seeking recourse from the State of Texas which probably doesn't have the funds either. Maybe he should send Governor Blanco the bill.
Related: Slate has a good article on the recovery effort in NOLA.