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What Really Happened in New Orleans?: Estimating the Threat of Violence During the Hurricane Katrina Disaster

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 25 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2008 Pages: 701-722
Timothy Brezina; Joanne M. Kaufman
Date Published
December 2008
22 pages
This study estimates the overall threat of violence faced by those who were hardest hit by Katrina and who lived through the disaster in New Orleans.
Findings revealed that the threat of violence was not characteristic of the experience of evacuees covered in this study. Even among respondents who did not evacuate before the storm, and who spent time in the Superdome, in the Convention Center, or on a street or overpass during the disaster, the majority reported that they were not threatened by violence. In comparison to those evacuees in the survey who managed to flee New Orleans before the storm, no evidence was found suggesting that the odds of being threatened by violence, in general, were any greater for those who did not evacuate in time. These findings challenge initial media accounts that portrayed post-Katrina New Orleans as a “snake pit of anarchy” and that depicted storm victims as violent and exploitative. Data suggest that while some antisocial behavior did occur in the immediate aftermath of the New Orleans disaster, it did not dominate the experience of storm victims; rather the overwhelming majority of the emergent activity in response to the storm was prosocial in nature and involved efforts on the part of residents to provide mutual aid and assistance. Data were drawn from 680 randomly selected respondents to the Survey of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees conducted from September 10 through 12, 2005. Tables, references