[JURIST] Television and newspaper reports of widespread crime and violence in the days following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] are proving to be largely unsupported or exaggerated, according to recent reports by journalists and officials. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday that news stories of rapes, murders, sniper attacks and body counts after the hurricane have not been substantiated; only four homicides in New Orleans have been confirmed since Katrina, a number that is consistent with the city's average 200 murders per year. Even atrocities detailed by public officials are proving to be unsubstantiated by the evidence. In interviews, Police Chief Eddie Compass reported rapes of babies and Mayor Ray Nagin mentioned hundreds of armed gang members killing and raping people inside the Superdome. Compass later said the rumors damaged authorities' ability to respond to the devastation by misdirecting scarce resources. A Times-Picayune editor blamed the false reports on lack of communication due to downed phone lines and rampant rumor spreading among the city's stranded residents. The Los Angeles Times has more.