January 17, 2006
Nearly every state was impacted when they took on thousands of New Orleans evacuees after Hurricane Katrina and now some cities are reporting an increase in crime after opening up their city. The Houston Police Department reports a 23 percent increase in murders over the last year with some of the 150,000 evacuees responsible. But law enforcement here says we haven’t seen those problems.
Hurricane Katrina evacuees were forced out of flooded New Orleans. Hundreds of cities opened their own homes. And now some cities say along with the evacuees came crime. But Richmond County Sheriff’s Major Ken Autry says that’s not the case in Augusta.
“We absolutely have had some incidents involving people that were displaced by the hurricane,” Autry said.
But Major Autry says the department hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in crime because of some incidents involving evacuees.
“We haven’t had to develop a task force of anything like that,” Autry said.
But of course when the department files reports it gets their attention when crimes are committed by evacuees. In December 2005 at East Augusta Commons Townhomes, officers responded to a physical altercation that ended with 26-year-old Edward Burns shot in the arm, leg and chest. Paul Fowlkes and Wendell Washington were arrested for aggravated assault. Another man, Benjamin Lewis is awaiting extradition from Virginia. All of the suspects evacuated to Augusta after Hurricane Katrina.
“It was an aggravated assault and the victim died in the last week,” Autry said.
Investigators say they are still investigating whose charges will be upgraded to murder. Again, it is important to mention that while other cities may have increased crime that is committed by hurricane evacuees, Augusta law enforcement says there is no cause for concern here.