Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Katrina's impact on crime questioned

From the Houston Chronicle:

A huge crime wave blamed on thousands of Katrina evacuees in Houston and other Southwest cities never happened, say criminologists who warned public officials and the media to be careful in attributing crime to the former New Orleans residents.

Five criminologists who reviewed crime statistics published a study in the current issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice, and found only a “modest” increase in the murder rates of Houston and Phoenix, and none in San Antonio, three cities that took in thousands of evacuees from storm-ravaged New Orleans.

The researchers did not find an accompanying rise in auto theft and assaults and other crimes, which they said would have been expected if dispossessed evacuees were responsible for a crime hike.


You can file this away with the reports of mass rape at the Superdome. That is, there were no confirmed rapes at the Superdome, where thousands of poor black New Orleanians sheltered in the days after Katrina hit the Big Easy. And now we know for sure that thousands of poor black evacuees from New Orleans did not cause the crime wave that everybody was certain happened in Houston after my hometown took them in.

Look me in the face and tell me we don't have a severe problem with racism in this country.

Houstonians expected the crime rate to skyrocket when the evacuees arrived. Facts be damned: people expected a crime wave, so people believed that there was a crime wave. It quickly became conventional wisdom that West and South West Houston, where many of the New Orleanians were resettled, were caught up in some kind of NOLA gang war. I mean, the Chronicle and local TV news divisions talked about the "crime wave" as though it was actually happening. I think I even broke down, after reading what seemed to be endless reports on the subject, and agreed that the evacuation had brought the Crescent City's worst element to H-Town.

Except that none of it was true. None of it. There was no crime wave. It was all in people's heads. The only explanation for this grand illusion is racism, plain and simple. Racist newsmen, racist citizens, racist politicians, all feeding on each other's racist fears and creating a racist group-think, a textbook case proving the Nazi maxim about repeating the lie enough times until it becomes the truth.

Sure, Houston just elected a big lesbian to the city's highest office, but prejudice and bigotry are still alive and well there. And frankly, I don't think my hometown is too terribly different from most other American cities. I wonder if liberal white San Francisco would have reacted much differently if they had two hundred thousand poor black people dumped at their door step. Probably not.