New Orleans has returned to the headlines, sounding the alarm this week for the National Guard to come help as the city's murder totals for 2006 have jumped to 54. While it seems to be common knowledge that New Orleans was riddled with crime before Katrina, there has apparently been an idea floating about (no pun intended) that this "new" city would be much safer. This article reads, The bloodshed has raised fears that violence is back on the rise in a city that was plagued by crime before Katrina drove out half its population of 465,000. Community leaders are afraid the violence will discourage people from returning.
As a resident of Birmingham, AL, I am always checking the crime statistics here and mapping out where violent crimes take place (none near our home, for those who care.) As I blogged some last year, the city has seen a drastic increase in murders, and as of today the city is 15 ahead of last year's frightening pace...and there is still a search in progress for two grandparents and their 19-year old grandson who have been missing the past few days. If 54 is an emergency number for New Orleans, then what is 50 for Birmingham? (53 unless this missing family is actually alive somewhere.)
Considering the problem in New Orleans, this article presents the idea that these "thugs" are coming back to New Orleans from places like Houston. Nagin said Monday that he believes some thugs are coming home from places like Houston because the judicial system is in such disarray here that they're in less danger of spending long stretches in prison.
Apparently, Nagin only wanted his upstanding residents to return after the storm. Of course, he (and everyone else except Houston) would have been fine with the criminals staying away.
As for Birmingham, the reaction to its own problems is basically no reaction thus far, just the calming rhetoric from the police spokesman:
"It's more homicides than what we would like to see. As I always say, one homicide is one too many," said Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Henry Irby. "We encourage people to not settle their differences through violence and to step away from confrontation when possible."
It seems that of these two cities, the one that should be more concerned is the one that wasn't devasted by a hurricane and has not lost its ability to fight crime. Hopefully Birmingham will wake up before it's too late.