Crime in post-Katrina Houston: the effects of moral panic on emergency planning

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This study used a mixed methods approach to estimate whether a moral panic occurred after Hurricane Katrina forced the evacuations of more than 250,000 people to Houston, Texas. The study viewed data from the Houston Police Department combined with a qualitative review of references of criminal activity in local print media. In total, over 8,500 lines of text were analysed to discern themes associated with media representations of the influence of evacuees on the city of Houston. There was little evidence of statistically significant increases in crime over the months following the evacuations. There was, however, evidence that evacuees, principally from New Orleans, were blamed for perceived increases in violent crime and lawlessness. There are also significant policy implications for state, local and federal governments. In particular, the policies of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were blamed for at least some of the perceived crime attributed to Katrina evacuees.