Friday, December 08, 2006

Violent crime is up in Houston after Katrina (Part One*)

I was asked recently if my concerns immediately after Katrina about the New Orleans evacuees coming to Houston had been realized. [Very soon after Katrina I was worried about reports that the crime rate in New Orleans was much higher than in Houston, and predicted that we were going to see increased crime in Houston as the result of our New Orleans neighbors coming to visit. I posted some anecdotal stuff along the same lines here, here, here, and here.]

After looking a bit I found a chart created by Pat Ramsey at Southwestern University that compares crime stats for the eight months before Katrina (Jan-Aug '05) to the same period in 2006. [I'm grateful I found Pat's work because it makes the point and saved me a lot of work, but it seems a better comparison would be the year before (Sept '04-Aug '05) to the year after.]

Look at Pat's chart and you'll see crime was up in most catagories tracked, and significantly up in some (interestingly, burglary and DWI were down).

But, my correspondent wanted to know, was there an increase in the per capita crime rate? In other words, was the increased crime due simply to the fact that there were more people or were the evacuees in fact committing crimes at a greater rate than Houstonians had before Katrina?

To answer that question one needs population numbers: Houston before Katrina and the number of New Orleans refugees. The Census Bureau, in a special project to assess the effects of Katrina, made estimates of the Houston population before and after Katrina. In Part Two, I'll look at those numbers and show that per capita crime rate increased in several catagories.

* I left my analysis of the per capita figures at the office and I'm too lazy to rerun it now. So there's a Part Two. While you wait, chew on this: My correspondent contends that everyone is one bad break away from destitution and criminality (in her case, crack whoring). "There but for the grace of God go I." Discuss.