Posted on September 26, 2005

Most Airlifted Evacuees Have Criminal Records, Sept. 25

When South Carolina opened its arms to 547 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, it got something it didn’t bargain for — 301 new residents with criminal records.

More than half of those airlifted into the state have criminal backgrounds, with convictions ranging from petty theft to rape, authorities said.

That’s what State Law Enforcement Division agents found to their dismay. Most had committed minor offenses and few of their crimes were recent, but the group also included people convicted of aggravated assault and rape, SLED Inspector Richard Hunton told the Charleston Post and Courier.

Still, none of the 301 was placed in custody.

Though two men had outstanding warrants for burglaries in Oregon and Washington state, they were released because neither state wanted to extradite them.

The group screened represents only a tiny portion of the 6,000 Gulf Coast evacuees staying in South Carolina. Only those evacuated by federal officials were subjected to background checks upon their arrival.