New Orleans murders go home

NY Times:

The wail of police sirens is back, and gunfire again punctuates the night. As drug dealers move into flood-damaged houses, alarmed residents say that in the last few weeks, they have begun to sense a return to the bad old days before Hurricane Katrina, when crime was an omnipresent straitjacket on life in this city.

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"It's coming back," said Capt. Timmy Bayard of the New Orleans police, who is in charge of narcotics investigations.

"It's not as plentiful as it was," Captain Bayard said. But, he added, "We're starting to grab some people." His men, searching abandoned houses in the Eighth Ward, have found drug stashes. He said it was like "looking for a needle in a haystack."

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In Houston, which reported a sharp spike in killings after Hurricane Katrina, police officials say they have noticed a decline since the beginning of the year. Homicides were up 24 percent in 2005, but Houston police officials say the number would have been down 2 percent, absent cases in which either the suspect or the victim was a storm evacuee.

Last fall, there were "multiple" hurricane-related killings in Houston nearly every weekend, said Sgt. Brian Harris of the Houston police, but the violence had significantly eased, he said.

New Orleans again appears to be drawing the people who wreaked havoc on its streets before the storm. A local murder suspect wanted in Houston, for example, drifted back here and was arrested this month in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb.

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