Stopping Crime Demands Action

Tulsans are taking more of an active role in stopping crime in their neighborhood.

And as they take on that role they are helping authorities ‘‘get the bad guys’’ off the street and into custody.

But it also comes with a price and that is the purpose of the Spats and Craps fund-raiser set Oct. 26 at the Mayo Hotel.

Carol M. Bush, executive director, said the $150,000 goal will help offset increased expenses for the non profit agency as efforts are expanded to apprehend criminals.

Tulsa’s Crime Stoppers is the second oldest in the nation, started in 1979 behind a similar operation in Albuquerque.

But Tulsa’s program is the highest in the country with a 77 percent arrest rate credited to its history.

Records show that more than 4,500 felony incidents have been resolved and more than $11 million in stolen goods and narcotics have been recovered.

This has been very important in helping solve crimes, she said, adding that ‘‘we love scorned girl friends.’’

Many tips have been received after a guy dumps a gal, Bush said. There also is a number of bad guys turning in other bad guys so help does come from unexpected sources.

Changes have been made to make Crime Stoppers more efficient and get police to the scene more quickly, she added. A call center has been hired to answer the calls 24-7 and immediately forward the information to authorities. This compares to just last year when a cell phone was passed around to various officers who took information and then passing it on.

People complained about calling many times and not being able to get through. The call center, which is more expensive, has eliminated those complaints.

Now officers are enroute to calls almost as quickly as they are received.

Since the call center has been utilized, the faster turnaround has resulted in more tips and arrests, she said. The higher number of tips also has resulted in more costs, placing an additional financial burden on this agency which is the Crime Stoppers only funding source.

Alert Neighbors is another Crime Commission program proving to be very effective, Bush continued. People want to live in crime free areas.

Since becoming executive director in Nov. 2005, Bush and team from Crime Stoppers have been making up to two presentations daily throughout the city — and area.

The increase in crime and shortage of police officers is the biggest concern expressed by people, she said. The team’s role is to educate people that they truly are the eyes and ears of the police.

People are frustrated because there is no immediate response when they call 9-11. Every call is recorded, but with so many murders and violent crimes, there is little time to respond to some of the vandalism calls that are received.

Each call is mapped and tracked despite what appears to be slow response times, Bush said. This information shows patterns and helps police determine where patrols need to be increased.

Police officers working various beats are often involved in the Alert Neighbor presentations, she continued. These officers know what is going on and are able to answer questions residents have. They also can make suggestions about how they can better assist when reporting incidents.

This provides a double edge sword because people and officers get acquainted and effective relationships are built.

Bush smiled as she recalled a real ‘‘success story’’ in the Alert Neighbor program.

The area in and around 46th Street North and Delaware was having problems with gangs and other negative situations, she said. One resident, a 78-year-old woman brought the problem to the attention of the Crime Commission, adding that she didn’t want to be a leader in the cleanup effort.

The residential area was a mix of long-time residents owning their own property and rental houses where occupants were making meth. In addition, there was a green belt that provided a safe haven for people making drug deals.

Only 13 people attended the first meeting, Bush said. It was a total mix that included Anglo, African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics.

One issue that was discussed was that landlords were not checking out their tenants before renting property. Another was that all street lights had been shot out. Residents wanted something done.

A city code enforcement officer also attended that first meeting, noting the difficulties residents were encountering.

When the second meeting was held a month later, 40 people were in attendance, including some landlords.

Before the meeting ended, the hat was passed and enough money collected to purchase new street lights, Bush said. ‘‘I told the residents the area had to be lighted up like Christmas.’’

The city had crews get the lights installed and the landlords evicted undesirable tenants.

By the third meeting, the trash had been cleaned up and vandalism in the area had been stopped.

That is an example of how active neighborhood associations can help make crime go away, Bush continued. Those efforts are working in North Tulsa as well as in South Tulsa.

Unfortunately, calls often aren’t received about the Alert Neighbor program unless the situation gets so bad that people get desperate or angry — or both.

When 9/11 calls are made, police need to know where the incident occurred and whether or not the caller wants to see an officer, Bush said. Police want to go directly to the scene, preferring to talk to the person reporting the incident later when possible.

Crime Commission work is expanding to other counties, she continued. Until this year, about 98 percent of the agency’s work was devoted to Tulsa. Now requests for help are being received from Rogers and Wagoner Counties to develop Alert Neighbor programs.

What is happening is gang members are hiding out in the rough areas of these counties, then coming to the more populous areas to do drug deals and cause other problems.

Northeast Oklahoma has become a major hangout for criminals. Crime Commission talks have been presented in Adair County and Stillwell. The focus is getting people together to marshall forces to combat the problem.

It was those incidents reminiscent of the times of in the late 19th Century as well as the gangster era of the 1930s that prompted the Spats and Craps fund-raising theme, Bush added. That is why Tulsa has been dropped and the name changed to Crime Commission.

More businesses are responding to the fund-raiser, she said. They realize that economic development cannot occur in Tulsa when the city is not considered a safe place to live.

People go on line to look at statistics and don’t want to come to a place that looks like East Los Angeles, Bush said. ‘‘We have got to make Tulsa a safe place to live and send a message that criminal activity is not and will not be tolerated.’’

Bush can be contacted at 585-5209.

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