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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NOLA's Gangs... in Houston

Some months ago, I wrote:

If the criminal element is, as Nagin seems to think, not in the city right now, where are they? Watch the news – I’m sure you’ll hear about them. They’ll be the ones causing problems in their new locales. Not because they’re poor. Because they are violent, opportunistic criminals, and they've been increasingly dangerous in New Orleans.

Sure enough, those that made some neighborhoods of New Orleans so dangerous – the gangs – have made their presence known in their new location: Houston.

Hurtt said that after talking with state and regional officials, he is "pretty certain that (Louisiana) gang members did relocate here to Houston."

Capt. Brown said the department is still gathering intelligence on what role, if any, Louisiana gangs may have played in recent homicides.

"Is it possible and probable that there were gang members involved in some of those, I think the answer's yes," he said. "We're just not prepared to say it's a Louisiana problem at this time."

As it happens, Houston already had gangs, so what’s likely happening is “turf wars”, where the established Old Nasties are pushing back against the infiltrating New Nasties. The HPD (Houston Police Department) is also seriously understaffed (by something like 1,000 officers), so they’re going after this problem with overtime.

How bad is the impact on Houston? Murder is up almost 25% over last year, and 70% this month. Holy cow!

Unfortunately, this is causing some reaction from the Houston residents, who are truly unhappy that their incredible generosity has opened a door to these criminals. The calls to “send them back to NOLA” are all over the local forums and letters.

That’s the wrong answer, folks.

Houston is a much different city from New Orleans. The HPD does not have years of problems behind it; instead, Houston's police have enormous respect in the city. Furthermore, the NOLA gangs are not entrenched yet; they’re vulnerable still. I’m hoping the HPD will pull all stops and drop the hammer on these vicious people – and lock them up for good.

We don’t want the criminals and NOLA doesn’t want them either. Rather than shuffle them around, let’s take care of the problem once and for all.