Stealing cars and trying to run from Tulsa Police

Tuesday, January 25th 2005, 2:10 pm
By: News On 6

Some people think it's a thrill to steal cars and if it seems there've been a lot of cases lately. The reason, January is one of the worst months of the year for auto thefts in Tulsa.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says car thieves are often quick to run from police and in fact Tulsa had two chases Monday night with stolen cars.

Tulsa Police say those pursuits are safer than ever, thanks to new technology and a new mindset.

One chase in downtown Tulsa started when an officer spotted a stolen car and tried to stop it. The driver sped off, but his freedom was short-lived, he crashed into a building a few blocks away. Officers arrested 35 years old Bruce Smith[pictured], an ex-con with warrants.

No innocent citizens and no officers were hurt, which is exactly how police want it. And, it's ending up that way more often because times have changed and attitudes, too. Tulsa Police Sgt Bill Goree: "20 years ago, foremost in the officer's mind was to catch the bad guy at all costs. Then we began to realize the costs are not worth it. We can catch the bad guy another day, know who he is."

Technology also makes pursuits safer, using stop sticks on the ground and helicopters in the air. Choppers allow officers in cars to back off so the driver hopefully slows down and doesn't feel the need to blow through stop signs and other dangerous moves.

Once the car stops, the chopper can direct the patrol officers right to him. "The ones we pursue for a long time are the ones who we don't know who they are and they're a threat, like an armed robber or just committed a homicide, those we'll pursue a lot longer."

Tulsa hasn't had an innocent citizen seriously injured or killed in a police pursuit in many years.

The department reviews each and every pursuit, no matter how short or long, minor or major. Tulsa averages 12 to 15 police pursuits every month.

Tulsa Police say it doesn't pay to run because one 3-month period shows officers arrested the driver nearly 80% of the time. A third of the pursuits in that time period involved stolen vehicles. And police called off the pursuits more than 16% of the time.

Here's Tulsa's top 10 list of most stolen cars for 2004.

Once again, nearly a third of all vehicles stolen are Chevy products. Chevy trucks top the list again this year, but number 2 was a surprise, Hondas.

Tulsa Police say Hondas didn't even make the list two years ago and now they're the second most popular vehicle stolen. That bumped Ford trucks down to the number 3 slot followed by Chevy Trailblazers, Tahoes and Suburbans at number 4 and GMC trucks at number 5.

The Olds Cutlass, Dodge truck, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Chevy Caprice finish out the top 10.