As the season's temperatures rise, so does the frequency of crimes reported throughout the city of Tulsa. Hot spots of crime have evolved throughout 2010 and now dot different regions of the Tulsa map. With a new shooting or burglary to report almost every day, some Tulsans are now wondering if these areas of crime might spawn more aggressive attacks citywide.
According to Tulsa Police data, a pattern has emerged showing areas marked by gun-related crimes, which include assaults, armed robberies and shootings. These crimes are highly concentrated in three areas of the city: from E. 46th St. to E. 56th St. and N. Cincinnati Ave. to N. Hartford Ave., from E. Apache St. to E. Young St. and N. Harvard Ave. to N. Oswego Ave., and from Riverside Dr. to S. Peoria Ave. and E. 56th St. to E. 61st St.
"The common characteristic in these areas are the socio-economic conditions of the area," said Capt. Jonathan Brooks of the Tulsa Police Department. Usually, these areas house low-income residents.
Although police typically combat different hot spots every year, three problem areas have emerged this year.
One of this year's hot spots in south Tulsa, in the 61st St. and Peoria Ave. area, recently saw one gun-related crime escalate to a scene where two people were shot and sent to the hospital, all within earshot of police officers working a traffic stop.
The June 29 incident that happened near Cheezie's Pizza at 1104 E. 61st St. was preceded by a murder-suicide June 22 when Kwick Stop employee Zeshaan Siddiqui had his girlfriend Chelsea Bartmier meet him at the store. Minutes later, gun fire was heard coming from the convenience store bathroom where Siddiqui had apparently shot and killed Bartmier before turning the gun on himself.
Although such homicides happen within these hot spots, Tulsa Police Officer Thomas Bell said homicides cannot be mapped out as easily as gun-related crimes are.
"Homicide tends to not occur in compact hot spots," the TPD crime analyst said. "And the location of incidents is usually based on factors other than simple geography. Very broad areas of the city, typically encompassing several square miles, may experience higher rates of homicide."
Another area ringing with gunfire within miles of the N. Harvard Ave. and E. Apache St. hot spot is the highly publicized Chicken Hut at 1500 E. Apache St.
On February 28, Valentino Verner was shot and killed in front of the Chicken Hut, while witnesses stepped over him to retrieve food from the takeout window. Although a large group of people had gathered before the shooting, only one witness was willing to offer information to the police after the homicide.
Then in the early hours of May 16, three more men were shot at the establishment; although this group survived the shooting.
"Areas where large crowds concentrate, especially in the late night and early morning hours, are a concern for the police department," Brooks said. "Typically, after-hours eating establishments conduct business when bars close at 2am. Therefore, the combination of alcohol, large crowds, warm weather and different social groups can lead to tension and quickly ignite violent acts."
After the second round of shootings at the Chicken Hut, police patrols of the area were increased. Down the street at the nearby hot spot of crime, a stretched police force also began patrolling the area in an attempt to combat the centralized crime, Brooks said.
"The police department has taken direct enforcement in these specific areas," he said.
"Direct enforcement includes placing additional officers and resources at those locations prior to and during their peak hours of operation."
The TPD also works with the city's Public Works Department to adequately light the areas. The city ensures codes are enforced for work and health permits to lessen the operation of illegal establishments in these areas, Brooks said.
However, even with a heightened level of police officers patrolling high crime areas, the TPD's investigations into some crimes often hit a wall, said Cpl. Marcus Harper of the TPD Homicide Unit.
"As it pertains to areas such as the Chicken Hut or 6100 S. Peoria Ave., officers and detectives generally receive little or no cooperation from witnesses to these crimes," he said. "Sometimes citizens that witness these crimes have the fear of having to testify, retaliation or just not wanting to get involved.
"As a result of the lack of cooperation, the offenders are free to continue to commit these crimes or, in some cases, become victims due to retaliation."
Part of the reason for an increased crime rate in these areas is due to an influx of gang-related activity, Brooks said.
However, the homicide rate has not increased due to gang activity, Harper said. Of the 28 homicides this year, three have been the result of gang violence, he said. For the past several years, gang violence has been the cause of approximately 10 percent of the city's homicides.
Violent crimes are not the only category of crimes that evolve into centralized areas in the city. Various types of burglaries also dot Tulsa, and one of these hot spots is a repeat offender.
The E. 46th St. North to E. 56th St. North and N. Cincinnati Ave. to N. Hartford Ave. area known for its gun-related criminal activity that also has a high rate of residential burglaries.
Commercial burglaries within the past year occur frequently from E. 31st St. to E. 36th St. and S. 89th E. Ave. to S. Mingo Ave. Nearby, burglaries from vehicles frequently happen between S. Sheridan Ave. to S. Memorial Ave. and E. 36th St. to E. 36th St. to E. 41st St. Burglars also target vehicles parked from U.S. Highway 169 to S. Garnett Ave. and E. 71st St. to E. 76th St.
Although most victims are stunned to find their vehicles the target of a burglary, police are often not surprised by the areas burglars choose to prey upon.
"As a general rule, burglary from vehicles will increase in areas where there is a higher concentration of parked cars," Bell said.
Consequently, large retail areas are common targets, such as the Blue Dome District, Woodland Hills Mall and Brookside, he said. Criminals also choose parks to burglarize because valuables are left in plain sight.
Harper hopes that he will soon be able to send more police to high crime areas to stop some of this criminal activity before it even starts.
"With the additional officers ... the Tulsa Police Department will continue to increase their presence in the volatile areas," he said.
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