Oklahoma City police chief cites gangs, drugs for increase in deadly violence

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said gang activity, drugs drive increase in homicides in Oklahoma City in 2012. Drug-related crimes aren't just about deals gone bad or gang violence, he said. Many other homicides have a drug connection.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Modified: January 13, 2013 at 5:12 pm •  Published: January 13, 2013

Oklahoma City flirted with a dubious record in 2012 — the 99 homicides during the year were the third most in history, just three short of the 102 homicides in 1979.

Only one other year had more homicides. The total was 236 in 1995, the year the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed.

Police Chief Bill Citty said homicide numbers can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next. The city had 60 homicides in both 2010 and 2011. Citty said he hopes 2012 was an aberration, but he is troubled by growing numbers of assaults that indicate increasing violence.

“That trend is going up every year,” he said. “I don't think our homicides will drop back into the 60s in 2013.”

Homicide totals for 2012 in other U.S. cities with similar population include Portland, Ore., 27; Albuquerque, N.M., 46; and Las Vegas, 80, according to their police departments.

There is no easy explanation for why so many people were killed in Oklahoma City in 2012, Citty said. The year began with a spike in domestic homicides, but those numbers leveled off. Gang-related violence was the biggest driver of the increased numbers, the chief said.

“The gang violence is the highest we've had,” Citty said. “Our drive-bys are up. Our gang-related and gang-involved homicides almost doubled.”

Tim Hock, a detective with the department's gang unit, said police track a record 5,150 Oklahoma City gang members and about 120 gang sets that operate in the city.

“It's a back-and-forth,” Hock said of the violence. “There's constant friction.”

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