The smell of spring is in the air. Birds are looping through the sky, trees are budding with lime-green growth; warmer weather also means more crime.
"In springtime, typically we see a higher volume of violent crime than we do the rest of the year," said Jason Willingham, Tulsa Police Department public information officer.
Over the past few weeks, a few high-profile cases of home invasion had us wondering whether crime rates are higher this year than average. But the "big four" of violent crime - rape, robbery, homicide and aggravated assault - is down 7.7 percent compared to this time last year, Willingham said.
According to the most recent numbers, general robberies (store robbery, home invasion or carjacking) are down 24.27 percent compared to the same time last year, Willingham said. In January and February 2011, there were 107 robberies. This year, there were 73 for the same time period.
However, these numbers may not be particularly comforting to T-Towners who are shocked and dismayed by the details of two recent home invasion cases.
On March 27, Tulsa Police officers shot and killed 25-year-old Phillip Steven Doll, who allegedly was attacking an elderly woman in her home. Reports indicate Doll had likely been trying the doorknobs of several homes in the area of 36th St. and Riverside Dr.
The 65-year-old Eva Jones was rescued after her grandson arrived outside the home and saw Doll towering over her threateningly. Jones' grandson called 911, and officers arrived on the scene shortly. When they entered the house, they reported hearing screams for help.
By then, Doll was on top of the woman, allegedly threatening her life, and would not respond to officers' commands. Police say Doll lunged toward the officers, and that's when shots were fired.
Doll died; the woman was not seriously injured.
Earlier that same day, Doll was listed as a person of interest in the death of his girlfriend, Natalie Davis. Her family found her on the morning of March 20 with a gunshot wound to the head in her apartment at the Lodge Apartments complex near 79th St. and Yale Ave.
Police are seeking information on Doll's activities during his last days. "There are still a lot of questions," Tulsa Police Officer Jason Willingham said. "More so, we're trying to figure out if Doll is responsible for the homicide of Natalie Davis, and how he came to [the woman's] location that night. Was his motive robbery or burglary or sexual assault?"
Willingham classified the attack as part of a "random" home invasion, which he said is a rare occurrence. "We do have some home invasions in our city, but it's typically a relational type situation," Willingham said. Whether it's a drug deal gone wrong or a property dispute, "Most of the time, the suspect knew the victim," he said. "True home invasions are relatively rare."
But just a week before the home invasion involving Doll, another deadly home invasion occurred. On March 14, two north Tulsa great-great-great-grandparents - a 90-year-old woman and 85-year-old man who had been married for 65 years - were found severely injured in their home.
Bob and Nancy Strait were rushed to the hospital, where Nancy later died following sexual assault and battery. Her husband, Bob, was treated for a broken jaw, severe bleeding and BB gunfire to the face, reports indicate.
The couple's front door was kicked in, their Dodge Neon was gone and belongings were missing from the home, reports show.
The Strait case is "one of those crimes that shock the conscience," Willingham said. "It certainly draws people in. These people were living out their final years, so to speak, and were no harm to anybody and all of a sudden, this happens.
"It's just a terrible, terrible situation," he said.
Overall, though, Willingham said Tulsa's crime rates aren't much different than they were 10 years ago. Crime has risen, but so has Tulsa's population. If you have any info on these cases or others, contact Crime Stoppers at 918.596.COPS.
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