This year in the City of Tulsa, 51 people have died as a result of violence inflicted on them by another human being. The highest total number of homicides recorded in Tulsa's modern history is 56.
For all anyone knows, homicide no. 52 was averted one night last week by the sharp eyes and hard efforts of two officers who are part of the Tulsa Police Department's "Safe City Initiative."
"This guy was a career criminal. He'll probably be going away for the rest of his life now," Officer Jerad Lindsey of TPD's Uniform Division East told UTW when the arrest was made.
As a part of the task force's focus on certain "hot spots" in the city where violent crime is known to happen most frequently, Officers Cal Kaiser and Eric Hill's trained instincts told them to pull the man over, and they quickly discovered his concealed firearm, the two outstanding warrants for his arrest on drug-related charges and the numerous felony charges on his record.
Of course, since he was caught before he had a chance to put that gun to use, one can only speculate on what his plans were that night, and what gruesome headline his activities might have inspired in the next day's news.
"The impact is immeasurable. Since we can only measure the crimes that do happen, we can never know what crimes we've prevented," said Lindsey.
That particular arrest was among many to result as part of the Safe City Initiative, he said.
Capt. Matt Kirkland and Deputy Chief Mark McCrory conceived the operation, in collaboration with Mayor Kathy Taylor's office, Lindsey said.
It was an outgrowth of the "highly successful" Operation: Bullet Trap, which was a focused "warrant roundup," Lindsey said, targeting violent offenders with gang affiliations.
He said the Safe City Initiative expands on that strategy by pairing the efforts of patrol officers with those of undercover officers in unmarked cars.
For the same reason he wouldn't divulge where those "hot spots" are (even though we drove to several of them, but I'm not talking), lest he scare the fish, so to speak, Lindsey also wouldn't say how many officers are involved, except that half are in unmarked cars, half in marked, and all are drawn from TPD's three Uniform Divisions to create a sort of "mini-police force within the department" as "a more specialized tool to fight a specific problem."
The officers on special assignment for the Safe City Initiative are addressing that problem of violent crime by being "proactive instead of reactive" by, instead of "running from call to call to call" and going to the scene after a crime has already occurred, they're going where violent crimes can most be expected to occur and preventing them before they happen, he explained.
"We're not going after some 20-year-old with a joint--we're going after gang members and gun crimes," said Lindsey.
"We're going after that one percent of the population that we're usually spending 90 percent of our time on," he added.
On top of the crime-fighting activities of the operation, Lindsey said it also works as a mentoring program.
Teaching How to Fish
The undercover officers share their training and experience in tracking and catching career criminals with patrol officers, who will then take that knowledge back with them to share with colleagues when their special assignments are over.
Since the operation began on Aug. 26, 115 arrests have been made, 77 of which were for felony charges.
While that may or may not seem like a lot of bad elements off the street, Lindsey said these weren't small fish.
The total past convictions in those career criminals' collective record numbers around 10,000, he said, ranging from misdemeanors to violent crimes.
One of most recent of those arrests was a 16-year-old charged with armed robbery, among other offenses.
Police believe he is one of the four people involved in a recent rash of armed robberies committed in rapid succession over the past few weeks.
The modus operandi of these robbers is to threaten victims at gunpoint and/or pistol whip them, grab their belongings and flee in what police believe are stolen vehicles, and then repeat the process with some other hapless victim(s) a few blocks away.
At the time of this writing, though, the juvenile's partners in crime were still at large and, while the efforts of the Safe City Initiative are focused squarely on catching them, TPD spokesman Officer Leland Ashley said citizen involvement can also help, both to prevent being victimized and to catch the serial robbers.
"Remain alert, and call 911 if you see anything suspicious," he said.
"If a person has a gun pointed at you, give them whatever they want," Ashley also advised, adding, "But, try to be the best possible witness: pay attention to distinguishing characteristics like tattoos or earrings."
He also encourages anyone with information about the at-large robbers to call 596-COPS. Callers will remain anonymous, and rewards between $200-1,000 are available for information that might lead to their arrest.
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