Houston Community News >> Radio Ad Asks Houstonians to Arm themselves Against Evacuees
9/22/2006 -- A radio commercial for a local gun shop advises Houstonians to arm themselves against "Katricians," adding to the growing tension between Houstonians and the Katrina evacuees who have been blamed for a rising crime rate.
Gun shop owner and radio talk-show host Jim Pruett said Thursday he started running the ad a few weeks ago after hearing a local television interview with a Katrina evacuee living in Houston who implied he would have to turn to crime if his government assistance ran out. "There are many evacuees here who are working," said Pruett, who has owned Jim Pruett's Guns & Ammo in northwest Houston for five years. "They have become Houstonians now. That is fantastic. That is what you are supposed to do. You are not supposed to threaten the place you are working in."
Katrina evacuees are suspects or victims in 59 of Houston's 262 homicides between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26. Residents in upper middle-class west Houston have blamed evacuees for violent crime rates that have increased almost 14 percent in one district and homicides that have nearly doubled in another.
Earlier this month, the FBI reported that violent crime in Houston jumped 2.4 percent last year, slightly above the national figure of 2.3 percent. Pruett's radio ad says, "When the 'Katricians' themselves are quoted as saying the crime rate is gonna go up if they don't get more free rent, then it's time to get your concealed-handgun license."
Department of Public Safety statistics show that from January to Sept. 1, the number of concealed-carry permits issued for handguns have risen almost 25 percent in Harris County, which includes Houston. Texas has no other gun registration laws.
Black activists held a community meeting Thursday evening where they blasted negative stereotypes of evacuees created by Pruett's ad, as well as media reports that they believe portray all evacuees as criminals. They also took issue with comments earlier this month by gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, who attributed a spike in Houston's crime rate to the "crackheads and thugs" who evacuated New Orleans.
But community activist Quanell X said Houstonians and evacuees "can't protect the criminal element around us. Let's talk about hitting the streets and dealing with the criminal problem."
Roshondra Lowe, 29, an evacuee from New Orleans who was among about 30 people attending the meeting, said she doesn't want Houstonians to prejudge displaced residents like herself. Holding printouts of Houston's crime rate from the last few years, Lowe said the statistics showed the city had a problem with crime before evacuees arrived.
"It's a bunch of nonsense. I'm not going to feed into that. It's just ignorance," Lowe said of ads like Pruett's and other negative comments made about evacuees.
A spokesman for Mayor Bill White said that crime overall is down in Houston but there are some areas that were hot spots before the hurricane and continue to be.
"Mr. Pruett has made his career as a shock jock and is using this tactic to sell guns," spokesman Frank Michel said. "The vast majority of evacuees who came here are hard working, law abiding citizens." Pruett, 62, said while crime in Houston was an issue before Katrina evacuees came to the city, they have contributed to the problem.
"It's a serious crime epidemic, no matter what the mayor says," said Pruett, whose store Web site offers the following advice: "Be polite and courteous, but have a plan to KILL everybody you meet."
As many as 120,000 evacuees remain in Houston since the city welcomed at least 250,000 after Katrina swamped New Orleans last year.
(Contributed by Houstonian)