POSTED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2013:
Fighting crime should be collaborative
Sometimes in government problems that have gone unnoticed have a way of coming to the top when there is a controversy. When that happens, some say, "I told you so," while others say, "I had no idea." This seems to be the case with the latest revelations and discussions about how citizens can help fight crime and how much an updated, state of the art criminal records information system is needed.
All of this, of course, came about after the Fairmont Terrace shooting in January. The shortcomings of the crime fighting tools available to Tulsa Police had been there for years, but it took a horrific event for policy leaders to suddenly get focused. Government has a whole lot more experience being reactive than proactive so we're pretty good at creating after-the-fact task forces, committees, and so forth.
Besides all of the issues surrounding public housing, the two crime fighting issues that have dominated the air space have been about the Crime Prevention Network (CPN), formerly called the Citizens Crime Commission, and the revelations that the Tulsa Police Department criminal records information system is about 30 years old. So now the opinions about what can be done to improve both of these are starting to be voiced.
Historically, the two most visible programs of the CPN are the Crime Stoppers Tip Line and the Neighborhood Watch Program. There is little dispute that there have been times when both of these programs have helped law enforcement do their job.
But now there is a plea that the City of Tulsa provides a substantial amount of funding (perhaps up to $250,000) to increase the outreach and effectiveness of CPN. The questions are, will it make CPN more effective and should the City of Tulsa carry the load alone?
Is educating citizens on how to be crime spotters and crime reporters going to fall on the ears of the responsible and civic-minded citizens? Will it be able to change the attitudes and behaviors of those who are not? If anonymity and a cash reward are not enough incentive to help, what is?
Certainly education is a good thing. If economic development can save a family, surely education can save a life. Yet it's hard to imagine that most people who would report a crime tip don't already know how to do that. There needs to be more than brochures in police cars or any other marketing campaign funded entirely by the City of Tulsa.
First, this is a county or regional problem and should be planned, solved, and funded on a county or regional basis. Second, the better way to reach people today with marketing or messaging is through the social media tools. It is on Facebook, not billboards, that folks are more likely to get the message. Third, and perhaps most importantly, you have to find a way to involve the youth. The vast majority of crime seems to be committed by people younger than 35. Perhaps more work at all levels of education should be the focus.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz
COURTESY OF TULSA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Fourth, most crime here comes from gang members. You break or cripple a gang like we break or cripple a terrorist organization -- you take out the leaders by all means available. We must relentlessly put all law enforcement assets that we can against gangs.
On the topic of the criminal records information system, the current system was designed and created by then-TPD Major Stanley Glanz in the late 1970s. Today, as Tulsa County Sheriff, Glanz has created a state-of-the-art criminal justice records information system that is one of the best in the country. He has shared this system with Jenks, Bixby, and Owasso. The question now is, why not include Tulsa?
Before the city considers spending millions of dollars for years to come (or asking the taxpayers to foot the bill as part of the next third penny sales tax) on a new system that will take years to develop, the sheriff, his staff, and his vendor should be invited to City Hall to demonstrate how he can provide a better service and system for less cost and quicker.
Clearly, a unified data base which can be accessed by police and sheriff cars all over the county is an idea that should be vetted. After all, it was just a year ago that city and county officials spent months working on a collaborative model on how they would work better together for the benefits of the taxpayers. Cooperative crime fighting, sharing information and backing each other up is what the citizens reasonably expect.
About five years ago, when the city and county were negotiating their contract on the operation and costs of the jail, the city had expected the sheriff to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city in order to access and use the City of Tulsa's records systems. The sheriff said thanks but no thanks and went out and found a system for a fraction of the cost. Now the very system the City wanted the sheriff to use is shown to be inadequate and out of date with current technology. Obviously the sheriff made the right decision.
No one really disagrees that both the CNP and the City of Tulsa crime information systems can be effective crime fighting tools. And no one really disagrees that in order to do that will take some amount of funding commitment. Where the debate needs to be now is what's the most effective and sensible things to do, who should be involved, who pays for it, and how will we measure success with whatever is chosen to be done.
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