Another rise in violent crime in Tulsa in 2016

In Tulsa, compared to the first six months of 2015, the same period in 2016 saw a 24 percent increase in violent crime. Still, the overall violent crime rate in Tulsa remains low compared to historic standards.

Tulsa police. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier
Tulsa police. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Though the government won’t release official crime statistics for another nine months, preliminary figures from the first half of 2016, as handed over by law enforcement officials, show that violent crime across the nation rose 5.3  percent from the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of property crimes decreased less than 1 percent nationwide.

In Tulsa, compared to the first six months of 2015, the same period in 2016 saw a 24 percent increase in violent crime. In 2015, Tulsa reported the first increase in violent crime since 2008. Before last year, reports of violent crime had been on a decline.

In 2015, reported violent crimes increased by 13 percent increase, from 3,217 to 3,630.

Leland Ashley, a spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department, said the department is aware of the two-year trend and is working to address the issues.

Ashley said the rise in crime is partially due to the department having fewer police officers. Over the last five to six years, TPD saw a steady decrease in manpower due to a decrease in revenue. Additionally, several officers have retired, he said.

“We have an older force,” Ashley said. “We have several who could retire right now if they wanted to.”

Ashley added TPD also hasn’t had the manpower for its street-crime unit. The unit worked along with patrolling officers to address crimes such as serial burglary.

TPD anticipates several large police academies in the next several years financed through the Vision Tulsa tax extension. The tax, which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2016, set aside more than $200 million to fund the hiring of additional officers.

The department reported having about 760 officers last year, but a study suggested that nearly 200 more officers needed to be hired to reach minimum staffing levels.

There are several academies scheduled this year with 25 to 30 members in each academy, he said.

“So there will be more officers on the ground to practice police work than what we have right now,” Ashley said.

The academies last six months, with a possible additional four months with field-officer training, Ashley said.

With revenue being up the past year, it will allow TPD to increase its number of officers and keep it up, Ashley said.

“We anticipate over the next year or so for crime numbers to decrease,” he said.

Increase in crime 

The city saw 28 murders in the first six months of 2016 and 27 in 2015. In 2016, Tulsa broke its record for reported homicides record with 82.

Ashley said the reason behind the increase of homicides in 2016 is hard to put a finger on.

In the past, many homicides have been connected to domestic violence, drugs or gang activity, which allowed TPD to target certain areas, Ashley said. But in 2016, reported homicides didn’t often involve strangers and the victim usually knew the perpetrator, he said.

The preliminary figures for Tulsa also show a 41 percent increase in reported rapes from 160 in the 2015 six-month period to 226 in 2016. Figures show an increase in each crime type. 

The preliminary FBI statistics compare the first six months of reported crimes in 2015 to the same period one year later.
The preliminary FBI statistics compare the first six months of reported crimes in Tulsa in 2015 to the same period one year later.
Though violent crime increased in Tulsa in 2015, it's still low compared to historic standards.
This chart shows annual reported violent crimes in Tulsa from 1975-2015. Though violent crime increased in Tulsa in 2015 and 2016, it’s still low compared to historic standards.

In cities nationwide murder increased in 2016, one year after it rose at its fastest pace in a quarter century

Still, the overall violent crime rate in Tulsa remains low compared to historic standards.  

The Tulsa Police Department reported it highest amount of violent crimes in 1992 with 5,008 reports.

The issue of the rise in violent crime has drawn nationwide attention, with President-elect Donald Trump often pointing to the nationwide increase as evidence of a breakdown in law under President Barack Obama. However, the murder rate is still about the same as when Obama was elected in 2008.

The Marshall Project, which The Frontier partners with for its Next To Die project, has used a widely accepted statistical calculation to get a weighted average of recent years — smoothing out the year-to-year fluctuations that are common to crime data.

Other Oklahoma Cities

In Oklahoma City, the overall reported violent-crime rate increased by about 3 percent, from 2,399 to 2,462. Murder was the same for the six-month period in both years at 30. The city saw a decrease in reported rapes and burglaries. It saw a rise in reports in all other crimes categories.

The overall reported violent-crime rate in Broken Arrow fell less than 2 percent, from 74 to 73 violent crimes. The city saw one murder in 2015 and zero the year before. It also saw an increase in robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, theft and arson.

Reports of rape, burglary and motor-vehicle theft dropped.

The FBI released the preliminary semi-annual report Monday. The report is based on voluntarily reported information from 13,336 law enforcement agencies that submitted three to six months of comparable data for the first six months of 2016.

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Contact: Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044.