TIME.com Print Page: TIME Magazine — What Happened To The Gangs of New Orleans?
Before Katrina, New Orleans had a murder rate 10 times worse than the U.S. average. The killers evacuated too. Tracing the criminal exodus.
But when police interviewed the suspects, they suddenly understood why New Orleans was so violent. No matter what police said, they couldn’t get the suspects to talk. They had no leverage because no one took their threats seriously. It was a logical response: in New Orleans, 93% of people arrested from 2003 to 2004 never went to prison. It was the first time the Houston police had heard the phrase “60-day homicide.” Suspects would say, “This ain’t nothing but a 60-day homicide,” meaning that if they kept quiet for 60 days, they would walk–just as they had too often in New Orleans. So Houston police started letting evacuees spend a few days in jail before questioning them in depth. While they waited, the suspects talked with other inmates and had court appearances–which did not end with release. Eventually, for some, the reality of Texas law began to sink in. “As they stay here more, they seem to talk more,” Sergeant Harris says