Attorneys Fear New Laws May Raise Crime Rates In Tulsa
TULSA, Oklahoma - Two controversial laws will go into effect at midnight tonight.
The idea was to save the state money by not sending so many people to prison.
State Question 781 creates a fund from those savings, so counties can offer more treatment.
A lot of people understood 780 made drug possession a misdemeanor, but not everyone seems to understand it changed the property theft laws.
You can steal any of these items: tool chest, lawn mower, cell phone, big-screen television, everyday, and it will always be a misdemeanor as long as the price is under $1,000.
You can bounce bad checks or embezzle from you job, and as long as it's under a thousand dollars, also a misdemeanor.
You could even get caught with this $850 stolen gun, same thing.
"It's a misdemeanor. This guy is walking around with a handgun he shouldn't have," said Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney John Brasher.
Prosecutors fear crime will skyrocket and victims will be angry.
But supporters say Oklahoma puts too many people in prison and it costs the state in both money and lives wasted and this will get people the help they need.
"Several states already enacted these reforms and have met with tremendous success with reducing crime and better use of state resources," said Kris Steele, a supporter of the bill.
The law promises to give the savings back to the counties for treatment. They say it will take one year before they see that money.
"It took time to get in this predicament and it'll take time to get out," Steele said.
Steele says ultimately, what we're doing now, isn't working.
That it costs Oklahoma $19,000 a year to put someone in prison but $2,000 to $6,000 to get them the treatment they need.
He believes these reforms will save the state $.5 million in the next 10 years.
He says if it doesn't work, the law can be amended.