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New Orleans come back?
There is evidence that the non-working poor the population most implicated in crime, as victims and perpetrators may be returning in higher percentages, for now, than middle-class residents washed out by the storm. A population map prepared for the city appears to suggest as much.
In Houston, which reported a sharp spike in killings after Hurricane Katrina, police officials say they have noticed a decline since the beginning of the year. Homicides were up 24 percent in 2005, but Houston police officials say the number would have been down 2 percent, absent cases in which either the suspect or the victim was a storm evacuee.
Last fall, there were "multiple" hurricane-related killings in Houston nearly every weekend, said Sgt. Brian Harris of the Houston police, but the violence had significantly eased, he said.
New Orleans again appears to be drawing the people who wreaked havoc on its streets before the storm. A local murder suspect wanted in Houston, for example, drifted back here and was arrested this month in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb.
In the past, even when there were lulls in crime, many residents felt as if they were living in a city under siege. Perception became part of the reality, fueling an exodus of whites and blacks to the suburbs or out of state.
The drug culture has been deeply ingrained here and never fully disappeared. A local rapper called Juvenile, in his new post-hurricane album, declaims: "E'ybody need a check from FEMA/So he can go and sco' him some co-ca-een-uh."
But crime is nowhere near its pre-storm levels. With the city's population reduced by at least three-fifths, statistics indicate that crime is down 60 percent to 70 percent over all, the department said.
There have been 16 killings this year, compared with more than 60 for the same period last year, which means quieter days for the police but still works out to an annualized rate of 32 killings per 100,000 people, ahead of Cleveland and Chicago.
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