December 21, 2005

NPR: New Orleans actually pretty bad after all

While the New Orleans Nightmare was winding up in September, I predicted both that initial reports of violence were exaggerated and that there would soon be an attempt to cover up how bad conditions were in New Orleans. This duly arrived. Soon, the conventional wisdom had shifted 180 degrees.

It's too late for another shift in the conventional wisdom, but for those interested in what actually happened, here's today's National Public Radio report:

More Stories Emerge of Rapes in Post-Katrina Chaos
by John Burnett

Morning Edition, December 21, 2005 · Law-enforcement authorities dismissed early reports of widespread rapes in New Orleans during the lawless days following Hurricane Katrina. But a growing body of evidence suggests there were more storm-related sexual assaults than previously known.

Female victims, now displaced from New Orleans, are slowly coming forward with a different story than the official one. Two national crime-victims' groups have reported a spike in the number of reported rapes that happened to storm evacuees. The numbers are not dramatic, but they are significant when seen in light of the official number of post-Katrina rapes and attempted rapes: four...

Benitez and others interviewed for this report believe that police authorities -- who were anxious to discount initially exaggerated reports of mayhem -- are downplaying violent crimes that happened in the anarchy after the storm. Lt. Dave Benelli, commander of the sex crimes unit with the New Orleans Police Department, denies that.

"We're not downsizing anything," Benelli says. "I'm telling you the number of reported rapes we had."

Benelli says his team investigated two attempted rapes inside the Superdome, and two additional reports of rapes that happened in the city, one of which was the 25-year-old hairdresser.

When presented with the additional cases collected by victims' advocates groups, Benelli acknowledges that the police simply doesn't know the extent of sex crimes after the storm.

"I admit that rapes are underreported," Benelli says. "I know more sexual assaults took place. I've expressed many times that we're willing to investigate any sexual assaults that happened in this city at any time. We can only deal with what we know."

The California Disaster Medical Assistance Team spent 24 hellish hours inside the Superdome. Team members said they delivered babies, treated gunshot and stab victims, and ultimately fled for their own safety. Commander Dave Lipin says they saw two women who said they'd been raped -- different women than those the police attended to. He says his team only saw a fraction of the desperate people who sought assistance.

Lipin says when he arrived in Baton Rouge and turned on the TV, he was surprised by reports of rampant violence in New Orleans. "I think that that was probably over-reported," he says. "And so now I think it's swung the other direction and it's underreported. I don't know why. My sense now is there are victims out there whose stories haven't been heard." [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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