Crime Increase in Houston TX Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1643 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice


Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in American History. Although the storm itself was a destructive force, the social and political issues that arose in its wake are likely to go down in history as even more destructive. One of the most discussed social issues has to do with the increased crime rates that have occurred in cities that absorbed large numbers of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees. The purpose of this discussion is to examine the impact of citizen displacement on cities such as Houston and San Antonio, Texas. In particular the discussion will focus on the rising crime rate in Houston and the theory that may explain why there has been such a significant increase in the amount of crime in the area.

Crime increases in Houston, Texas following Hurricane Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina more evacuees from New Orleans moved to Houston than any other city in the country. The city of Houston was very welcoming to these newcomers. Although a large percentage of the people that moved to Houston from New Orleans are law-abiding citizens who sought to and did reestablish themselves in Houston, there were also many people with criminal backgrounds that moved into the area; in fact, prior to hurricane Katrina New Orleans had one of the highest crime rates in the country. After hurricane Katrina many of the evacuees moved to Houston and the crime problem that was once contained in New Orleans is now present in Houston.

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According to an article found in the Washington Post the increase in the rate of crime is most evident in the Southwest section of the city. The article explains that this section of the city has always had problems with crime but the influx of evacuees has greatly increased the crime rate in this area (Moreno, 2006). The article explains that from September 1st 2005 to February of 2006 "evacuees are believed to have been involved in 26 slayings, or nearly 17% of all homicides. The cases, according to Houston police, involved 34 evacuees -- 19 of them victims and 15 of them suspects (Moreno, 2006, A03)."

Term Paper on Crime Increase in Houston TX Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Assignment

In addition, in August of 2006 CBS news reported that the homicide rate in Houston had increased by 17.5% over the same period in 2005. It was also estimated that of the 232 homicides that occurred through July 25, about 21% involved a hurricane Katrina evacuee as a victim or as a suspect (Houston Cops Link Crime to Katrina, 2006). Many of the law enforcement agents in the city of Houston believe that a large percentage of the homicides have come as a result of rivalry between New Orleans gang members (Houston Cops Link Crime To Katrina, 2006). The article further explains that New Orleans allowed a lot of these guys to stay on the street for whatever reason or be picked up and released after 60 days," said Capt. Dale Brown, who oversees Houston's homicide division. "Texas law, I don't want to say it's tougher, but we take these offenses very seriously (Houston Cops Link Crime To Katrina, 2006)."

An increase in crime rates always occurs when there is an increase in a population. However, these increases in crime are usually more gradual because most cities have gradual population growth. However, after Hurricane Katrina the population of Houston grew by 10 per cent in a matter of days instead of years (Houston Cops Link Crime To Katrina, 2006). This growth has been taxing on all of the resources in the city of Houston. As a result, Law enforcement agents have asked the federal government for money to hire additional police officers so that there can be a greater number of patrols in problem areas (Houston Cops Link Crime To Katrina, 2006). Many officials also concede that a great deal of the crime is due in part to a lack of job training or a lack of willingness on the part of evacuees to find jobs. In any case, there is a serious problem as it relates to the correlation between an increase in crime in Houston and the significant amount of people that relocated to Houston following Hurricane Katrina.

Now that we have garnered a greater understanding of the growth in crime in Houston Texas, let us discuss that criminological theory that may explain this phenomenon.

Social Disorganization Theory

There may be several reasons why the increase in crime has been so prevalent in Houston. For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on Social disorganization theory particularly as it relates to residential instability. According to National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) social disorganization theory can be described as an inability of community members to achieve shared values or to solve jointly experienced problems (Bursik, 1988; Social Disorganization and Rural Communities)." The article explains further that the problem of social disorganization is usually prevalent in urban areas that are the only places the newly arriving poor (evacuees) can afford to live. Previous studies have found that this theory is particularly prevalent when there is a significant amount of residential instability in addition to a population that is composed of different cultural backgrounds (Social Disorganization and Rural Communities, n.d.).

In addition to residential instability, economic status also plays a role in the theory of social disorganization. The article explains that economic status as it relates to disorganization is determined by patterns of growth among urban populations (Social Disorganization and Rural Communities, n.d.). This aspect of the theory asserts that in some urban areas such growth contributes to social, physical, and economic decline particularly in the areas of the city surrounding the primary business district. As a result of this phenomenon, these areas are readily available to the poor and to other groups who move to the city (Social Disorganization and Rural Communities, n.d.). The article explains that As a result, areas with the lowest average socioeconomic status will also have the greatest residential instability and ethnic diversity, which in turn will create social disorganization (Bursik and Grasmick, 1993). Accordingly, many studies have found that urban neighborhoods with high rates of poverty also have greater rates of delinquency (Warner and Pierce, 1993; Social Disorganization and Rural Communities, n.d.)."

As it relates to those that evacuated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina, it is evident that these individuals gravitated towards areas of Houston that were the cheapest to live in and that already had a higher crime rate than the rest of the city. In addition, people from New Orleans have a culture and even a language that is extremely unique as a result of the unique history of the city of New Orleans. Although both Houston and New Orleans are both American cities, people from New Orleans may be having a difficult time adapting to life in a city that does not share the same cultural norms.

In addition to the aforementioned issues of residential instability and the mixing of different cultures, evacuees also experienced an event that was extremely traumatic, particularly those that remained in the city during and after the storm. In addition to higher crime rates, mental health care professionals have also noted that there has also been a significant increase in the amount of stress related mental issues including depression, anxiety attacks and post traumatic stress disorder. All of these mental health issues can lead to erratic behavior and the inability to find steady employment. People who are unemployed are more likely to commit crimes and get involved in delinquent behaviors. All of these factors, in addition to the fact that there were many criminals in New Orleans to begin with, make it very plausible that transferring a large portion of this population to another city, created a significant increase in crime.

In the case of Houston, Texas it seems the city did… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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