Roma Khanna, Houston Chronicle, Dec. 27, 2005
Concerned by a spike in homicides and other violent crime in certain neighborhoods, Houston Mayor Bill White Monday called on FEMA to fund a $6.5 million task force to focus on “hot spots” for crime.
While White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt emphasized that the uptick in crime is not solely attributable to Hurricane Katrina evacuees, White said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should pay the bill because of the strain the 100,000 to 150,000 new residents have put on the Houston Police Department.
The task force is the second program to increase police presence that the city has unveiled in recent weeks, amid concerns about manpower and a swelling homicide rate — up nearly 25 percent over last year and 70 percent this month.
Many of the problem areas fall in southwest Houston, particularly in apartment complexes housing numerous Katrina evacuees, White and Hurtt said.
“Some people who preyed on the vulnerable and broke the rules in Louisiana have gravitated to certain apartment complexes which already had a high concentration of crime,” White said. “Now, those areas have a worse problem.”
Katrina evacuees have been linked to at least eight of the 121 homicides in the city since they began arriving in September, Hurtt said.