Katrina evacuees add to Houston murder woes By Matt Daily Sat Jan 7, 1:55 PM ET HOUSTON (Reuters) - Police in Houston reported a 23 percent jump in murders over the last year as the fourth largest U.S. city grappled with 150,000 evacuees from New Orleans and no extra money to cope with the influx. Police statistics show that 336 people were murdered in Houston in 2005, compared to 273 the previous year. The city's murder rate was already increasing before Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, city officials say, and was worsened by a staffing shortage in the police department. Police say at least 10 of the deaths have included suspects or victims from New Orleans, a city that had one of the highest U.S. murder rates for years, leading the country in 2002 and 2003. Houston's spike in murders came sharply into focus over the Thanksgiving holiday when 14 people were killed during the long weekend, about twice the usual number. "It was definitely a bad, long weekend," Houston police chief Harold Hurtt said at the time. One of the murders resulted in the arrest of a New Orleans evacuee suspected of shooting another, and city officials say many of the crimes have taken place in apartment complexes where the evacuees are now living. This week, Hurtt launched a program to increase police presence at the troubled complexes and other areas with increased crime. "Some of these areas that have been identified are clusters of evacuees," he said at a news conference on Wednesday. Mayor Bill White, who has been praised for opening the city to the refugees, admitted the influx of so many displaced people -- many of them poor and without jobs -- has had an impact. "Some people who preyed on the vulnerable and broke the rules in Louisiana have gravitated to certain apartment complexes which already had a high concentration of crime," White said recently. "Now, those areas have a worse problem." Houston has requested $6.5 million in police funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover the staffing costs of the new anti-crime initiative, saying it is needed because of the Katrina evacuees. Washington has not yet approved the request. City Council member Ada Edwards cautioned that the evacuees should not be used as scapegoats. "We did have criminals that came here from New Orleans, but we had criminals before," Edwards said.