Hurricane Katrina caused many forms of distress, displacement and disruption to the community of New Orleans and the citizens most certainly were forced to act in drastic ways for survival. The response by the people has been considered forms of criminal activity and in all senses of legal activity has been defined as crime. Acts of looting and violence were reported by many reporters of various news media. Crimes were not only committed by everyday citizens of New Orleans, but volunteer workers as well and even, what people saw as the most shocking display of violence and betrayal of trust, by the Law Enforcement Officials as well.
What is also interesting is how this destructive event altered the residents’ perception of what is crime and what can be considered criminal. What was once considered to be a betrayal of trust towards another member of the community had been transformed into an activity that was now a means of survival. Some of the acts varied from a “need” to steal because they “had to” (i. e. , stealing from Bath and Body works for soap, supermarkets for food, water, clothes, etc. ) and then increasing to other side of the spectrum to murder of strangers, friends, and even family.
Hurricane Katrina caused a massive social disruption to the people of New Orleans and this catastrophic event would eventually lead to their breakdown of societal rules and values. And it is this breakdown that would not be lost to the eyes of the news media and would be broadcast everywhere, all across the world (of Katrina, apocalypse 2005). The New York Times gave many accounts of the violence, destructive and slide into anarchy that was happening in New Orleans. One article, published September 29th, 2005, After Katrina, crimes of the imagination, detailed the mass amount of looting and violent crimes in the area.
The article details the fears and horrors of becoming a broken society and living in fear of your once loved neighbor. Another thing this article seemed to touch on was that it was possible that fear was actually caused by a trick of the mind. “…Some, but not all, of the most alarming stories were figments of frighten imaginations, the product of no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of raw relations between some police officers and members of the public. ”
Speaking of the “raw relations between some police officers and members of the public,” these supposed raw relations were only further hurt and ripped apart by actions made by the police department themselves. Five police officers were accused and convicted (six years later) of shooting and killing defenseless citizens attempting to cross a bridge in search of food, water and shelter. These same officers along with the help of their department attempted a brilliantly mastermind plot to cover up their crime.
This included “made-up witnesses, falsified reports, and a planted gun” to prove that they were under fire by the citizens and were only trying to protect themselves. This news article Jury Reaches Guilty Verdict in Hurricane Katrina Shootings Trial by Fox News shows the corruption and hidden brutality of the law enforcement department of New Orleans. In association with police corruption and brutality, there was a similar crime committed by five different police officers a mere two days before the crime previously mentioned. An injured 31 year old male was taken to the temporary headquarters of police by his friends in search of help.
The officer drove off with the car with the injured male still in the back seat and his remains were found in the torched car. The implicated officer, for shooting the injured male and attempting to cover up by burning the car with the body still inside (oddly enough) was charged with a civil rights violation and the remaining four were charged with obstruction of justice. This just yet another article (5 cops charged in post-Hurricane Katrina shooting, burning death) found in the Daily News archives describing the corruption and brutality of law enforcement in the face of disaster.
However the actual brutality of the police system is not entirely at fault on its own. In a New York Times article: More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports published September 19th 2005, described of the crimes of the people against each and against law enforcement. There were gangs shooting at rescue crews, emergency room physicians were being confirming the rising amount of murders and rapes, and there were eye witness accounts of police officers being shot at while trying to help out a group of helpless victims.
While there is no excusing the horrible brutalization by the police department, it is clear to see that all of it is not always unprovoked. There have also been many other forms of crime in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that do not involve looting and murder. There have also been crimes by the state and government which have affected the residents of New Orleans. In Time Runs Out for St. Bernard Parish, an editorial in The New York Times, the housing and racial discrimination was brought to light.
The parish was banning anyone who was not a “blood relative” from seeking shelter at the parish. Since being in a predominantly white neighborhood this was implied to many any people of color was banned from the church. There were also crimes against the government through insurance fraud and lawsuits. Insurance companies were defrauding their clients (Attorneys arrive for opening of first Katrina insurance lawsuit, 2006) and then also evacuees of New Orleans were attempting to fraud insurance money away from FEMA and FBI grants (Katrina: Four Years Later, 2009).
The aftermath of Katrina was no match for the crime that occurred during and after it. The crime destroyed the faith and rationality of the people which prolonged and deepened the chaos of New Orleans. The news media as always played a big role in the hype of the crime wave but without the media the true seriousness of the crime would have never been investigated and given proper consideration to improve.
Courtney from Study Moose
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