In Katrina’s Wake, Looting, Gouging and Vigilantes


Looting, vigilantism and price gouging are rampant on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Biloxi Sun Herald said businesses in south Mississippi had become a “free-for-all.” All 1,500 New Orleans police officers had been ordered to cease rescue efforts and turn their attention to the lawlessness in that city. Looting was reported in Jackson, Miss., more than 150 miles north of New Orleans, reported the Clarion-Ledger. Hundreds of business owners across the region had armed themselves and were standing vigil over their property. The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that “thugs” from New Orleans were causing problems in the storm refugee center there. Most such centers had supplies intended to last only a few days. Nerves have become frayed by the lack of basic necessities. The Hattiesburg, Miss., American reported that a man shot and killed his sister in an argument over a bag of ice.

The federal government vowed to send 30,000 troops to the storm-damaged region. The mayor of New Orleans said it was likely that hundreds and perhaps thousands died in his city alone–many of them poor citizens who tried to ride out the storm, then drown in their attics by rising floodwaters when levees broke. The Clarion-Ledger said Mississippi authorities had been inundated with complaints about price gouging: bags of ice sold for $10 each, hotel rates bumped up by $40 a night, electric generators with a retail price of $1,100 selling for $3,000.


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