The relocation of people from New Orleans to Texas after Hurricane Katrina has had a major impact on crime and the cost of policing in Texas, according to a study by Sam Houston State University’s Police Research Center.
“The areas that were hit the hardest and had most of the evacuations were the poverty-stricken districts abundant with gang activity and persons with criminal records,” said researcher Mark Pullin.
“This is in no way suggesting that all of the persons evacuated were criminals, but the areas flooded had been plagued with criminal activity for many years.”
Even before they were evacuated, the hurricane victims turned to looting, exchanging gunshots between rival gang members, and even shooting at National Guardsmen attempting rescue efforts.
When the evacuees were housed in large buildings such as the Astrodome in Houston, tempers flared. Efforts began immediately to disperse them throughout the state and nation. Pullin had information from 52 Texas police agencies about the results of these displacements.
“Increases in crime in the sheltering cities was inevitable,” said Pullin, who found that other states were concerned about possible crime increases as well.
“With New Orleans having a dismal 28 percent of its population below the poverty level and a homicide rate that is 10 times that of the national average,” said Pullin, “it is evident and understandable that many of the persons displaced from the hurricane had a criminal history.”
The number of evacuees remaining included 153,000 in Houston, 10,000 in Dallas, 3,000 in Plano, 2,500 in Fort Worth, 2,450 in Arlington, and 1,500 in Baytown and College Station. From 100-500 were reported in Montgomery County, North Richland Hills, El Paso and Pasadena.
Pullin said that police agencies have begun to plan for such future events, because more and more of the U. S. population is living in coastal areas that will surely be hit by future disasters.
Pullin’s study was a joint effort of Sam Houston State University’s Police Research Center and Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.