Tulsa recently had a double homicide of two young men in North Tulsa. It's especially bad because both were teenagers and it happened in broad daylight. That was followed by a couple of drive-by shootings and then, there was another murder yesterday, Monday, July 14th. Many people, including some in the media, jumped to the conclusion all the cases are related. Maybe that will be the case, maybe it won't, but, police say there's no way of knowing in just 24 hours.
Gossip has a way of taking hold, making the rounds and being passed on as fact, when in truth, it's still just gossip.
Just because someone who gets killed has gang ties or relationships, does it mean their murder is "gang related?" The motive could be related to a girl or theft or drugs, rather than a gang affiliation.
Officers often get their hackles up when they hear someone saying, police need to get a hold of this gang problem. They don't believe this is a police problem, they believe it's a societal problem. They can make arrests and create special patrols and prosecutors can get big sentences for offenders, but, the "gang problem" is up to all of us to solve. That atmosphere that offers young men something they're missing elsewhere, the lack of parental supervision and guidance, that celebrity status given to thugs with drugs and guns... must be tackled first.
Police recently had a murder victim who had told his friends, his goal was to "die in the life" of a gang member. He got his wish when he was shot to death. How are police supposed to prevent or stop that? Officers will tell you there will always be some element of society intent on killing each other. When that happens, especially a couple of times close together, people think it's the reality of the world, but, it's not.
The truth is, a very small percentage of the population is involved in the violence and gang lifestyle we have in our community.
It's easy to hear reports night after night of shootings and murders and gang members and think we're out of control. The problem with our often 90 second reports is they don't always include the perspective we need.
Despite this recent rash of violence, (and hear me on this... each and every murder is one too many and a devastating loss for the family left behind) Tulsa is actually below the five year average for gun violence that includes shooting with intent to kill, pointing a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.
We've had 24 homicides at mid-year (again, one is too many), which, if we stay at this pace, will mean one of the lowest homicide rates we've had in awhile.
The fact is, we're nowhere near the shape we were in during 2003.You can point to some serious law enforcement efforts since then.
Tulsa police created task forces called Bulletrap and Safe City that focused on street crimes, after the department got rid of its three street crimes units.
The Tulsa County DA and U.S. Attorney have been super aggressive prosecuting people who use guns in their crimes and Tulsa's gang unit worked hard to get grant money that pays them overtime to work repeat gun offenders and make sure they're arrested. They've gotten 18 of them off the streets so far.
Still, all the law enforcement programs in the world aren't going to stop those who choose the thug life.
I hear often how the police don't care about these kids killing each other in our streets, but, yet, whenever there's a murder scene, when we arrive, it would appear they are the only ones who do care. They're the ones who are gathering evidence, trying to talk to witnesses, working crazy hours away from their families. What we don't see are leaders of the community or preachers or citizens at these scenes, banding together and denouncing each and every murder, no matter how or where it occurs.
It's become too blasé', too commonplace, too someone else's problem and that can't be good for anyone's future.