Grant Helping Tulsa Police Protect Homeless

Friday, April 3rd 2009, 5:11 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Police are working overtime to protect Tulsa's homeless and clean up downtown.

They recently received a $60,000 grant from the justice department to do something few departments in the nation have -- go after the people who are going after the homeless.

A lot of times, the people hanging out around the downtown bus station or homeless shelters are not people who have a caseworker and are trying to get help. They are people peddling drugs or violence and that's who police are after.

Officer Jennifer Mansell is part of a team working overtime shifts to make sure the people who are hanging out near homeless shelters have a legitimate reason to be there.

"The problem is, we're having a lot of drugs, alcohol abuse so when we have a big problem, we talk to people," Mansell said. "If you're here using the services, great. It's what they're here for."

Mansell knows many of these people by name and often talks to them like family.

The idea is to protect the people who are having a tough time and are at the shelters to get help, protect them from people who would offer them drugs, con them out of their money or talk them into criminal activity.

"We're really making an effort to help those people," Capt. Tracie Lewis said. "They're having a hard time as it is. The mentally ill and homeless on a whole are not violent. When we have a crime down there, usually it's them being victims."

Lewis wrote the grant and says in the first four days of the operation, officers made 23 misdemeanor arrests and seven felony arrests.

She says the shelters appreciate the effort because they have their hands full enough trying to help people in need, not dealing with people who want to cause trouble or bring in drugs.

"I still to this minute don't know who you are and I don't like that, OK?" Mansell said to one man. "I don't think you're Jeremy Watkins. If you have another name your mother gave you, really, I'd like to know what it is, OK?"

The man turned out to be Jodie Moorehouse. In addition to going to jail for the marijuana in his cigarette pack, he had a felony warrant.