Oklahoma City's murder rate could approach 10-year high

Monday, July 14th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City's murder rate is up 33 percent and could be approaching a 10-year high.

Robbery, burglary, theft and automobile theft also increased, while rape, assault and arson decreased, according to statistics from the Oklahoma City Police Department.

There have been 33 homicides in Oklahoma City this year through the end of June, the most recent period numbers are available.

In 2002, the city had a 12-month total of 38 homicides. In 2001, the city had 45 murders _ 24 through the end of June that year _ and 38 murders the previous year.

In 1993 Oklahoma City's murder rate reached a 10-year high with 80 murders recorded, according to the FBI.

A poor economy and crimes committed by repeat offenders may be to blame, said Oklahoma City Police Chief M.T. Berry.

Gang activity has also contributed to the increase in murders, Berry said.

``We're certainly paying more attention to where the crime is than we ever have before,'' Berry said.

While crime has increased, the police department has been successful in charging a suspect in 75 percent of all homicide cases.

Berry said the department would like to improve that rate, but the numbers aren't bad for this time of year.

Robbery and thefts have also increased in the last year. So far, the city has had about 80 more robberies, a 22 percent increase from last year; almost 2,200 more thefts, a 23 percent increase; and more than 200 more auto thefts, a 22 percent increase.

``You're looking at people who are feeling the pinch with the economy and maybe they've lost a job and they're starting to engage in property-type crimes,'' said Kelly Damphousse, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. ``They have fewer options and crime is one of those options.''

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