It's somewhat of a cliché that disasters tend to bring out both the best and the worst in people.
Clichés, though, get to be clichés out of long-established patterns of observable behavior, and the latest disaster to befall Oklahoma and Tulsa only reinforced that observation.
The human heart's nobler aspects were clearly seen in the massive volunteer response, in churches and other organizations opening their doors to offer shelter and food, in neighbors checking on neighbors, in those with generators sharing power with those without, and in countless other acts of kindness that weren't trumpeted and will probably never see headlines.
So also, unfortunately, did some Tulsans' base natures find opportunity for expression during the Ice Storm of 2007.
People were, for the most part, patient under the circumstances, but there were also the inevitable arguments over dwindling supplies of gas and generators, and angry drivers frustrated at the long lines at intersections without working traffic lights.
And then there was the criminal underworld.
Fortunately, though, Tulsa police, being well aware of the aforementioned cliché, anticipated the possibility of a surge in crime afforded by the power outage, and beefed up manpower accordingly.
"We didn't have power in great parts of the city, so practically the whole city was dark, with no street lights, and alarm systems that weren't working in homes and businesses, so we wanted citizens to feel protected," said TPD spokesman Officer Leland Ashley.
"And we wanted the criminal element to know we were out there," he added.
Under normal circumstances, there are a bare minimum of 36 officers patrolling the city streets at any given time, Ashley said, but there were at least 106 officers patrolling from the Monday morning when the power outage began until the next Friday when power had been restored to most of the city.
As soon as the emergency situation became apparent, he said, officers were called in for overtime. Officers on the Sunday night's graveyard shift, which normally ends at 7:30am Monday, were kept working until 10am while additional manpower was summoned.
Ashley said scheduled 10-hour shifts were extended to 12 hours, and officers normally assigned to administration, homicide and other areas were drafted to patrol, many in unmarked cars, to supplement the patrolling efforts.
It's probably a good thing, too.
Ashley said it's too early to analyze the numbers to compare with times of normalcy in order to say for sure if the disaster saw a "crime surge," per se, but there were numerous reported burglaries, and quite a few arrests, also.
He qualified, though, "We don't know how many of those people were just taking advantage or the opportunity afforded by the power outage or how many were planning burglaries anyway."
At least one opportunistic caper happened that Wednesday, though, when three people--a 30-year-old woman and two 18-year-old men--broke into a business at 51st and Memorial and tried to make off with some merchandise.
"They were definitely taking advantage of the power outage and the alarm system not working," said Ashley.
The trespassing trio was spotted by one of the officers in an unmarked car, though, and apprehended.
"That was the benefit of having additional officers out in this crisis situation," said the police spokesman.
Another attempted burglary occurred in the 2100-block of S. 99th East Ave.
Ashley said a 16-year-old boy broke into a darkened apartment that he apparently thought was unoccupied. It wasn't, though, and the resident subdued the wayward lad until police arrived.
A couple other teenaged delinquents--brothers aged 14 and 16--rightly guessed that a home on the 2800-block of E. 44th St. N. was unoccupied.
What they didn't guess, though, was that a neighbor was watching. The neighbor called the owner, who soon arrived along with some police who were patrolling nearby, who arrested the would-be thieves.
There were about 30 such occurrences, at least, during the power outage, but police were able to make arrests in about half of them.
At the time of the interview, though, Ashley also pointed out that there are still a lot of people staying at hotels or with friends or relatives, who haven't been to their homes for several days.
"We'll probably get some more burglary reports when people start going back to their homes," he predicted.
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