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Crime and Natural Disasters to Increase

In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Is the looting that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit a foretaste of what is to come in other cities?

Just one day after Katrina hit, both police and people ransacked Wal-Mart, even taking things they didn't really need.

MSNBC Reporter Martin Savidge: A lot of the people here say they don't feel bad taking the stuff, 1) because they need it, but 2) they said the police said it was okay. And we actually saw the police. They're in aisle three.

[Later footage shows the following two female police officers filling a shopping cart. When they notice the cameraman, the younger one goes off with the cart as the older one remains behind.]

Remaining police officer to her departing comrade: Hold on to it. [The police officer turns and faces the cameraman.]

Police officer caught looting Wal-Mart.
Police officer: How you doin'? [From now on she engages in evasive maneuvers to keep her face from being filmed.]

Cameraman: Hi! Whatcha doing here?

Police officer: I'm doin' my job.

Martin Savidge: Taking shoes?

Police officer: No, lookin' for looters.

Martin Savidge: Looking for looters?! And what do you do when you find them, 'cause I think I see them.

Police officer: Run them out of the store, that's all I can do with them right now, sir.

Martin Savidge: Uh-uh. They're all around us, though.

Police officer: That's what I see, includin' you. What are you doing in here?

Martin Savidge: I haven't taken anything, ma'am.

Police officer: But you're in the store.

Martin Savidge: . . . to walk in it and see it as a free-for-all like that is, well, you can't help but laugh sometimes even though it is grossly against the law. To see the police though, that was a shock.

Martin Savidge: . . . However, when you have the police in there looting, that is a problem. because if the breakdown of law and order happens on the very first day after the hurricane, how far will it go in a couple of days.—MSNBC
report, "Stealing for Salvation," Aug. 30, 2005.

Of course, the above scene of looting falls far short of being classified as "strife," and not all the police engaged in looting. But when we read about how one officer tried to stop looters and how he paid for it dearly with a bullet to his head, and how hundreds of people could scarcely be controlled outside another Wal-Mart, we realize that the scenes of lawlessness that occurred in New Orleans were not all as comical as the one above:

Capt. David Kirsch, commander of the 4th District, watched helplessly as one of his officers lay bleeding on a bed of shattered glass, fighting for his life.

The veteran patrolman had confronted looters at a gas station in Algiers, when one of them whipped out a gun and blasted him once in the head.

A day before, just hours after Katrina passed, it was a civilian who took a bullet, perhaps from a New Orleans Police Department gun, as officers struggled to quell a crowd of hundreds threatening to take over an Algiers Wal-Mart. . . .

Within hours of the storm's passage, lawlessness was spreading. Gas stations and convenience stores were being hit by looters, and then it seemed as if the whole commercial sector was under siege.

. . . "We might have had 50 to 60 percent of our looting Monday evening," [Kirsch] said, referring to Aug. 29.

About 4 p.m., officers faced their first major test. A crowd of a few hundred had gathered around the Wal-Mart on Behrman Highway.

A handful of 4th District police officers — five in the front, five in the back — blocked store entrances as a hostile tension mounted. What happened next remains a blur, still under investigation by the department. One of Kirsch's men said a group of looters rushed an entrance, an officer fired a shot, and the man fell to the ground. Two men scooped him up and disappeared into the crowd, the officer reported, but a body never surfaced. Police are not sure whether it was the officer's bullet that cut the man down or that of an adjacent business owner, who had threatened to kill anyone setting foot on his property.

"It was just a battle, a battle getting them out of there," Kirsch said.

And for a day or two it seemed like a losing battle, he said.

On Aug. 30, officer Kevin Thomas confronted three men who had allegedly broken into a Chevron gas station at Shirley and Gen. de Gaulle drives. First there was an exchange of words, then gunshots. Thomas was shot in the head. "If you were on the scene, you'd swear he was dead," Kirsch said of the officer who has since fully recovered. "We don't know how he made it."

Thomas' partner returned fire, hitting one of the men in the arm. Police arrested four men at the scene.

"And that was only Tuesday," Kirsch said.—"4th District: After securing Algiers, officers throw a lifeline to fellow cops," Times-Picayune, Dec. 18, 2005, bold added.

Carjacking Hits Nursing Home

Looting Wal-Marts and gas stations was bad enough, but looting a nursing home and carjacking their bus?

Managers at a nursing home were prepared to cope with the power outages and had enough food for days, but then the looting began. The Covenant Home's bus driver surrendered the vehicle to carjackers after being threatened.

. . .

"We had enough food for 10 days," said Peggy Hoffman, the home's executive director. "Now we'll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot."—"Nagin declares Martial Law to crack down on looters," wwltv.com, Aug. 31, 2005.

This was just one of many reports of carjackings that occurred in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

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