As National Guardsmen roll into New Orleans to help stem the violence in that hurricane-ravaged city, other cities with large populations of evacuees are managing to control crime without the use of the military, says the Christian Science Monitor. Some, including Baton Rouge, La., have beefed up police patrols and have seen a slight decline in violent crime. In Houston, which received the most Gulf Coast refugees, the situation is less clear. The city saw a 23 percent increase in murders last year, which police attribute in part to the influx of 150,000 hurricane evacuees. Violent crime is running this year at a rate higher than any of the past three years.
The Houston Police Department has started several programs – targeted at neighborhoods where large numbers of evacuees ended up – to stem the rise in violent crime. Much of the focus is also on keeping juveniles busy and safe for the summer. Tutoring programs and recreational activities, job-training courses for teenagers, and extra police patrols in high-crime neighborhoods are all part of the solution, say city officials. One enforcement program, the Unified Neighborhood Enhancement Team, is a mobile command unit that can be set up in a troubled neighborhood. In addition, 150 officers are working overtime to raise police presence and monitor gangs in high-crime areas.