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Tulsa County Sheriff's Office concerned about overworked deputies

Rising crime in Tulsa County is overloading the court system. Officials say a marked increase in the number of jury trials and protective orders has deputies stretched thin.

News on 6 eporter Heather Lewin says the numbers were released at a Tulsa County Justice Commission meeting Friday.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputy Catherine Curtin: "As the workload increases there's only so much one person can do." 37 deputies behind the scenes help keep Tulsa's courts running smoothly. But a recent study by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office shows the workload in the courthouse going through the roof.

Since 2003 court operations have seen a 90-percent increase in prisoner escorts to and from jail, 190 percent jump in protective orders served and a 162 percent increase in jury trials. The number of criminal court cases has jumped dramatically in the past year.

With 34 murder trials set for this Spring alone, deputies say the problem is just going to get worse. And with an increase in violent crime comes new security measures. Catherine Curtin: " We recently had a trial where we had to pull deputies and keep them for three weeks assigned to that trial and at the same time we had four other murder trials going on. "We were able to handle all that, but if these numbers keep increasing there may be a day it becomes a problem if we don't get more deputies in the courthouse."

While some other factors contribute to the numbers, like protective orders being more accessible. Curtin says even she is shocked by the seemingly never ending stream of murder suspects. "It shows that law enforcement officers in the community are out doing their job to fight crime in our community, it shows our DA's office is being aggressive in pursuing crime, but it also shows in our society, we have a serious problem with crime."

The heavy caseload has the District Attorney's office re-focusing efforts, officials there say the stacked up murder cases leave less time to handle non-felony trials. They're hoping for more funding to train additional prosecutors.

Just to give some perspective on the murder cases. There are 34 trials this spring compared to only 15 murder trials in all of 2005.
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