Houston Community News >> Houston Residents Wants Katrina Evacuees to Leave
8/31/2006 Houston - Frustrated that crime continues to climb one year after Hurricane Katrina, evacuee-weary Houston residents are pressing Mayor Bill White to send refugees back to New Orleans.
More than 1,700 residents gathered in west Houston Wednesday night to blame evacuees for violent crime rates that have increased almost 14 percent in one district and homicides that have nearly doubled in another.Special Advertisement
As many as 120,000 evacuees remain in Houston since the city welcomed at least 250,000 after Katrina swamped New Orleans last year. White and Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt told the crowd about a new police division on the city's mostly middle-class west side that will add 140 officers, increase investigative strength and target gang activitity.
Residents welcomed the news but many remained angry with the evacuees, about 3,000 of whom live in apartment complexes near the church where the meeting was held.
"Where do you stand on stopping the FEMA and the welfare money, in stopping the giveaways?" attorney John Kirkendahl, 61, asked White. White told the crowd the lawbreakers will not be tolerated and repeated his calls for "able-bodied" evacuees to find jobs.
"In Houston, if you intend to commit harm against your neighbor, we do have a special housing program for you: It is called jail," he said.
Katrina evacuees are suspects or victims in 59 of Houston's 262 homicides between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26. Those crimes account for all of the increases in homicides over the same period on 2005.
In District 19, patrolled by the Houston Police Department's Westside division, violent crimes are up 13.6 percent over the same period last year. In District 20, homicides jumped from five to 11 over the same 7 1/2 month period from a year ago.
"This is not Katrina fatigue," resident Barbara Miller said. "Crime is rampant in our area. ... and has taken root in our area. Mayor White, we want crime stopped, now. And failure is not an option."
(Contributed by Associated Press)