Anorak News | Crime Wave

Crime Wave

by | 9th, September 2005

‘WAS there much looting, robbing and rape after the tsunami hit Asia last Christmas?

‘Come up with your hands up, or we will shoot!’

We’ve looked back over the papers’ archives of that terrifying natural disaster and find only talk of desperation, carnage on a massive scale and the global rescue effort and aid programmes.

Oh, there were a few sickening tales of how Western paedophiles were prowling for children, and how some children had disappeared from shelters and hospitals, but it was never followed up in any depth. No-one was caught. No human traffickers were arrested.

But now to the natural disaster in America, which seems to be so much about human-made suffering. Take the Times’s story “Fast ticket to justice in New Orleans – alleged looters, snipers and rapists have been incarcerated in a makeshift jail at transport terminal”.

Called the Greyhound Correctional Centre, a converted Greyhound bus and Amtrack train terminal, the place is a temporary jail for they accused of making mayhem when people were hurting.

The Times’s man on the scene tours the jail, and tells us how it resembles a “prisoner-of-war camp” with “sweltering cells” and “glum” prisoners.

There’s the predictable shot of a few sad faces pressed up to the wire of the prison’s cages, fingers hooked between the links.

And then there’s the paper’s associated tale of how con-artists are “flocking” to exploit hurricane Katrina by claiming to be raising money for the victims.

It’s depressing stuff. But the “dozens” of websites created by bad people to fleece good people are surely not the main story. It’s as if the paper can’t get its head around the enormity of the disaster, the mass death, the broken lives, the ruined families.

Instead we get tales of human flotsam, the people who stand accused of committing crime – crimes they may well have committed as part of their everyday low-lives before the hurricane hit, in the American city that celebrated the seamier side of life. Place the crimes in the context of the event and there’s the story.

It’s not all about crime, though. There’s death, too. The Times notes the arrival of 25,000 body bags in Louisiana, as the city’s “putrid, receding floodwaters began to give up their dead”.

Over in the Telegraph, the entire story has been relegated to the “World News” section deep within the paper.

There readers are told more about the “stench of death” that hangs over New Orleans. The bodies are now clogging up the water pumps draining the city. Those 25,000 body bags are ready.

It hears from Captain Michael Pfeiffer at the New Orleans Police Department, who now calls himself “Mister Doom and Gloom”.

How many are dead, captain? Ten days after the disaster, the Telegraph says the official toll is 83, but that’s remarkably low. So how many now, captain? Well, says he, the relief teams “may intentionally not be counting, it seems very morbid to give a day by day count”.

But how many? Come on, captain. Give us a number. Nothing doing. And all the Telegraph can do is to tell us that a temporary mortuary is being made ready in a small Mississippi town to receive up to 5,000 corpses.

And if you want to learn more, and perhaps keep a running tally of the body count, you can always turn to the weblog being run by the paper’s man on the scene.

“Alec Russell on covering Katrina with a Chevy for a bed and phone that doesn’t work,” says the blurb. But, surprisingly given the news from the area, no gun…’

Posted: 9th, September 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink