Tulsa police start horseback patrols to watch cruising teen-agers

Sunday, April 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Teen-agers by the carload cruise the drag, stopping to talk in front of a QuikTrip or the Albertsons.

On warm weekend nights, their procession of souped-up engines and cranked-up stereos flows down Tulsa's Memorial Drive.

``This is the turnaround for Memorial,'' said 17-year-old Brooke Edwards outside the QuikTrip at 7626 E. 61st St. ``We turn around or hang out here. Then we go cruise and meet people like at Albertsons.

``People like to come show off their cars.''

Tulsa police have grown to expect the teens' spring pastime. Officers started patrolling the area on horseback Friday night.

Officer Steve Downie, atop a horse named Punkie, said officers are there mainly for seat-belt enforcement.

Within 30 minutes Friday night, Downie and his partner, Officer Rick Walker, wrote half a dozen seat-belt citations.

``We aren't trying to chase them off,'' Downie said. ``We are just trying to make it safe and keep a lid on the violence.''

Mounted officers watch from turnaround points along the drag, intercepting drivers who are not wearing seat belts or who are breaking other laws. A shout or a whistle usually stops a violating driver, Walker said.

``They are kind of surprised to see us there,'' he said.

If a driver tries to elude the mounted officers, they call for backup and a squad car arrives within minutes. Traffic is so jammed that someone trying to escape wouldn't get far.

Regular beat officers don't have time on weekends to monitor cruising. Downie and Walker were working overtime.

The Tulsa Police Department has six horse patrol officers and eight police quarter horses. They operate out of the department's Support Division and manage crowds at gatherings such as last October's Ku Klux Klan rally downtown.

Mounted officers regularly patrol River Parks, downtown Tulsa and high-crime apartment complexes.

``People are a lot more open to talking to police when we are on a horse than if we are in a car,'' Davis said. ``It develops a trust.''