Police plan stepped-up patrols, stricter code enforcement and a more proactive approach for a 4.4-square-mile area of the city that has seen 1,466 violent crimes in the last five years, including 14 homicides.
Using funds from an Oklahoma attorney general's grant, five overtime police officers will monitor 911 calls and respond quickly to violent cases, but will spend most of their time working to prevent violence before it happens, police said Monday in launching the one-year program. The officers will work foot patrols, contact people, execute search warrants, identify drug activity areas and make arrests as the city tries to “take back” the neighborhood.
“This grant is vital in partnering with the community here. We wanted to partner with the community to help reduce the violent crime that has taken place in this area,” police Master Sgt. Bob Skalla said. “We're very excited about this grant because we understand the frustration of the community and this allows us to be proactive and partner up with community.”
The area being targeted extends from N Meridian Avenue to N Council Road and Melrose Lane to NW 27. Money for the program comes from a $750,000 Safe Oklahoma grant.
Skalla said the key is for officers to develop partnerships with the community, partnerships like the one formed with Kay Bale, property manager for Mulberry Park apartments, 7626 NW 10.
“What Kay has done here, we would like to see emulated with the other apartment complexes down here,” he said. “We would like to partner with other managers and complexes to make the area safer and secure.”
Bale said she took over management of the property in 2011 after it was sold to a local man hoping to turn it around.
Since then, new fencing and more bright lights have been installed and windows and doors have been replaced, among other improvements.
“It was just like your typical, how can I say, ghetto,” Mulberry Park resident Kayla Douglas, 25, said. “It had an unsafe feeling. Now, I can probably go to sleep with my door unlocked if I needed to.”
Since taking over management, Bale also has kept a close relationship with the police department.
“Any time I have ever had to call the police department, they are here, they come out and they talk to me. Any time I have a question about lighting or security they are more than happy to come out and give me advice on what we need to do,” Bale said.
Skalla said the community is the police department's “eyes and ears.”
“By empowering them to call us and to report that suspicious activity, we will get that vital information that will lead to the apprehension of those who are committing the crimes in this area,” he said.
Police hope to focus on crime hot spots and use “intelligence-led policing tactics,” in which officers will look over crime reports, identify trends and suspicious activity, and work closely with patrols.
“They will aggressively to go after those who are violating our laws,” he said. “In fact, the team went out today and made their first arrest on NW 10 and Meridian on drugs by making voluntarily contact.”
What Kay has done here, we would like to see emulated with the other apartment complexes down here. We would like to partner with other managers and complexes to make the area safer and secure.”
police Master Sgt. Bob Skalla,