After Katrina, New Orleans Crime Moves to Other Cities

ByABC News
November 16, 2005, 6:02 PM

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 16, 2005 — -- New Orleans police say they have never seen so much peace and quiet on the city's streets.

"We haven't seen a robbery since the beginning of August," said Lt. Troy Savage, who patrols what was once the city's most violent neighborhood.

"We're probably at this point, one of the safest communities in the United States," he said.

Police said a woman was stabbed to death Tuesday night -- the first such incident in 90 days, a record in this city.

Since Hurricane Katrina forced most of the residents to relocate, police say, the daily shootings and killings have stopped.

"This was the most lethal criminal underclass in the United States," said Dr. Peter Scharf, director of the University of New Orleans Center for Society, Law and Justice. "We were heading for a murder rate of 72 per 100,000. New York City is at seven."

Scharf says, according to city records, there were 265 murders in New Orleans last year, 258 murders in 2003, and 275 in 2002.

Warren J. Riley, New Orleans' acting superintendent of police, says the drug dealers and gangs evacuated with the residents and haven't returned.

"We're a small town; we're Mayberry right now," Riley said.

By some estimates, hardcore criminals in New Orleans numbered in the tens of thousands, and they're now living in other cities -- Baton Rouge, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says crime is up in neighborhoods where large numbers of evacuees have settled.

He says he needs 400 new officers and has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial assistance.

"We're not going to let anyone come into the city and break the law at will," Hurtt said.

Last week, Houston police arrested a New Orleans man charged with four murders.

In Georgia, police have been busy busting alleged New Orleans drug dealers trying set up shop in and around Atlanta.

As a result, residents in some places are beginning to roll up the welcome mat. It's a criminal element some cities didn't expect, and New Orleans doesn't want back.

ABC News' Steve Osunsami filed this report for "World News Tonight."