Tulsa County's DA office requesting more money

Tuesday, April 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa County's District Attorney says if the state doesn't cough up more money, crime victims will suffer. Tim Harris says his staff can only do so much to get criminals off the streets with the budget they receive.

KOTV's Lori Fullbright explains how Tulsa County compares to other places the same size. The comparison is not pretty. Tim Harris says he doesn't want the whole pie, just a fair slice. For instance, Tulsa County has 16% of the population in Oklahoma but Harris' office only gets 12% of the money set aside for DA's. If he got the 16%, that would give him an additional $1.2-million a year.

Not a day goes by in Tulsa County without someone getting arrested for big crimes and for small. Those cases end up at the District Attorney's office, in fact, last year, 45 prosecutors handled 7,000 felonies, 4,000 misdemeanors, 2,000 domestic violence cases, 20,000 traffic cases, including dui's and 18,000 juvenile delinquents. "But for federal grants and programs that allow us to apply for other monies, we would not be able to give the citizens the kind of public safety they deserve."

Harris expects to receive the same budget this year as last, a little less than $3.5-million to cover a population of 563,000. He says Denver's DA gets $8-million a year with a population of 506,000, Wichita gets $6.5-million with 450,000 people and Albuquerque gets a whopping $13-million with 535,000 folks. "We're doing the best we can, but at some point, you reach a saturation level." Harris says it's not just the heavy caseload that's running off good people, but also, the fact he can't begin to compete with what his prosecutors can make in private practice. He says he can't fight this battle alone. "I think the people of Tulsa County need to make demands that we be given the tools we need to make this thing work."

Harris says now is the time for citizens to call and write their legislators since they are currently in the process of hammering out the state's budget. Legislators say they see the need for the larger counties to have more money but are reluctant to take it away from the rural DA's offices. They say they are searching for a solution that doesn't rob Peter to pay Paul.