The impact of cutbacks at the Tulsa Police Department

Wednesday, December 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa business owner who's fighting back against crime, blames her recent robberies not just on the criminals, but on Tulsa's mayor as well.

Juanita Buchanan survived a robbery and beating three months ago and shot at a second robber this week. And she blames it on cutbacks in the Tulsa Police Department. News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright has this follow-up.

Juanita Buchanan bought Wings Hamburgers nine years ago for something to do during her retirement. She loves the history of the business, it's existed more than 50 years and she loves her customers, who are mostly regulars. But she never dreamed she'd be working with one gun on her hip and another hidden among the hamburger buns. "I need to be able to go out and open my business and be able to run my business and have people come here and feel safe and they can't do that without policemen. That's what the mayor must understand."

Juanita's been robbed twice in the past three months, the first time she was beaten severely, the second time, she shot at the man and he ran. She blames the city budget cuts for the increase in Tulsa's crime. “Unless we get more police and train em and get more on the street, get rid of the jogging trails, of the soccer fields, businesses won't come here, they'll say look at the crime.”

In fact, crime is up in Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department is 26 officers down, plus it had to cancel a rookie class this year and the street crimes units were disbanded to put those officers on patrol. But the mayor's office says it's not a cause and effect relationship. Steve Sewell, Deputy Mayor: "In comparison to the parks and public works department, the cuts to the police department have been much smaller and that's because of our commitment to public safety, we all want to live in one of the safest cities."

The mayor's office says it sympathizes with all victims of crime and hope the trend will soon reverse itself. The police chief agrees that fewer police officers don’t equal, more crime. But it does impact how they respond to crime.

A rookie class will begin next summer and the city also plans to add two dozen reserve officers, volunteers who help free up paid officers to handle more serious cases.