Tulsa Mayor Considering Options For Dealing With Crime-Ridden Properties

Tuesday, January 8th 2013, 7:48 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said the city is exploring whether apartment complexes with chronic crime should be considered a public nuisance.

The city has used that designation to demolish abandoned homes before, but never occupied apartment buildings.

Under current law, the city cannot condemn property because of ongoing crime, but can tear down buildings that have been abandoned and are being used for crime.

City Hall is exploring what more can be done about apartment complexes with frequent problems.

It's a tool the city has used rarely, but with great effect: the outright demolition of buildings on abandoned property.

The city has demolished mostly homes, but also a few apartment complexes.

8/22/2012 Related Story: City, County Officials Join Forces To Demolish Neighborhood Eyesore

One which was demolished recently was abandoned, being maintained by the city by default, and was being used for criminal activity.

It takes a long history of chronic problems before it comes to that.

"Let's just start with criminal activity: drugs is one thing, tall weeds, debris, trash," said Dwain Midget, City Development Director.

Midget said the city is exploring all options to curb crime at places like Fairmont Terrace, the scene of the recent murders of four women, but it's unlikely the city can do more than enforce current law and encourage property owners to do better.

1/8/2013 Related Story: Tulsa Police ID Four Women Killed Monday

The Mayor said he wants to do more to hold property owners accountable.

"Absentee owners and absentee management is a huge problem, and we need to address that very, very aggressively. We've tried in the past and all cities in this country have the problem, and it's very difficult to deal with, but we're going to continue on and if we have to declare something a public nuisance, hooray, that's what we're going to do," Bartlett said.

The city has a process to notify apartment property managers of criminal activity, but it's never reached the level to even consider condemning an entire complex.

"You would have to have, and I'm speculating, an overwhelming majority of the complex in disarray, being used for crime or drugs and not just an individual unit," Midget said.

The city wants to gather apartment property owners to discuss solutions for the 61st and Peoria area, and the city is lobbying for new legislation that would give cities more power to condemn and take the title on property that is abandoned.