Just months after 124 Tulsa police officers were laid off because of budget cuts, many of those same officers are now donning their uniforms again and heading back out into the streets of Tulsa after being rehired. But their absence throughout the past several months has led some city residents and business owners to seek additional protection.
Advance Alarms Inc. is just one company that has been approached by new clients concerned about the safety of their families and businesses. The security company installs alarms, access control systems, and fire and video surveillance systems in commercial and residential properties throughout the metropolitan area.
Bobby Morrison, owner of Advance Alarms, said the inclusion of security systems in homes and businesses helps keep the crime rate lower, even during a time of escalating home invasions. Morrison knows the world of crime well after having worked for the Tulsa Police Department's robbery and homicide units until retiring in 1991.
After news broke last winter that dozens of Tulsa Police officers would be laid off, Morrison's security company saw a sharp spike in business -- an almost 25 percent increase in commercial customers alone, he said. Morrison said he has considered purchasing more trucks to keep up with the growing business.
"We're a month and a half to two months backed up," he said. "I'm afraid the commercial might drop off, but I can't just stop."
Some of those new customers include churches, schools and casinos. Although many of those businesses already used alarm systems, Advance Alarms has been following up to install cameras and access control systems, which restricts access into buildings and rooms unless an access card is used.
Morrison has not seen such a corresponding increase in residential customers, but he said that is tied to the lack of growth in construction.
"We're down about 15 percent in residential," he said. "We have 125 builders that we work for, but they're just not building anymore."
But as residential robberies hit certain areas in the city, installations of security systems in existing homes have increased by approximately five percent, Morrison said.
Tim Carpenter, owner of TNT Security Services, said he, too, has noticed demand for his company's security systems often rises in areas with increased criminal activity.
"There's a greater response when there is crime in the media," he said. "You see it in response to the area where there are home invasions and break-ins."
But this only makes up for a small portion of TNT's customers. Business for the company has grown throughout the past five years in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, now averaging about 100 new home installations in the Tulsa area every week, Carpenter said. This steady growth did not change after the police layoffs last winter.
"I don't think having 50 less or 50 more police officers is a bad or a good thing for our business," he said. "They've always been good to respond to our customers. Their service has been consistent."
Although David Treseder graduated from Tulsa's police academy in January 2009, his chance to be one of those first responders was cut short when he was laid off not once but twice throughout the past 10 months.
After being laid off the first time in October, he was reinstated one week later, only to be asked to leave again in January.
"I was obviously discouraged by the news," he said. "I just decided to keep my chin up and do my best to remain positive about the situation I was facing. I have no control over the layoffs, but I could choose my attitude and be positive and strong for my family. I remained hopeful that everything would eventually work itself out."
Since that time, Treseder has joined many other laid-off officers in finding work with security companies. Before hearing he would be reinstated again in August, Treseder said he was able to use his police experience and work part time as a traffic-control officer at some local churches.
Tulsa Police Major Julie Harris watched as many of her co-workers and friends were forced to leave the department last winter. But as the owner of American Gold Security, which utilizes off-duty police officers for part-time security jobs, Harris made it her priority to find work for many of them.
More than half of the 124 laid-off officers took part in the Tulsa Police Reserve program, a volunteer law enforcement organization where officers continue training and serving the community. However, police reserves are not allowed to wear their police uniforms at paid part-time security jobs. Harris saw to it that this rule was changed so the former officers could continue to wear police uniforms while working as security guards.
After Harris wrote a proposal to the police chief that the laid-off officers who volunteered to be police reserves also became a part of the Transitional Tulsa Police Reserves program, a program created to allow those police reserves to wear police uniforms at their part-time security jobs.
Harris began putting the laid-off officers to work at banks, weddings, office complexes and shopping centers. But the former officers were dedicating their time elsewhere, too.
"Part of the Tulsa Police Reserve program is that they are doing it for the community," she said. "In addition to them working with their Tulsa Police Reserve uniform on, they would participate in volunteer hours, like doing ride-alongs with other officers."
Even with many of those officers returning to work for the department, Harris said her business is not suffering from a lack of employees.
"Officers are still willing to work on their days off," she said.
Share this article: