Oklahoma murder rate rises 26 percent in 2003


Saturday, December 18th 2004, 3:06 pm
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ There were 206 homicides in Oklahoma during 2003, an increase of 26 percent from 2002 and more than half the murders were in the state's two largest cities, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report.

The report focuses on seven serious offenses, or index crimes _ murder, forcible rape, robbery, felony assault, breaking and entering, larceny and motor vehicle theft _ and shows reported offenses in those categories for each municipality statewide.

The report shows that the number of homicides increased from 163 in 2002 to 206 last year, with 110 committed in Oklahoma City or Tulsa.

The most homicides were in Tulsa, where 61 murders were reported to the OSBI, up from 26 in 2002. And Tulsa police said they believe the number was even higher, with 70 murders during 2003.

Sgt. Kim Presley said some of the murders were committed by gang members who have been arrested.

``That was an anomaly that we hope never happens again,'' she said.

Tulsa has recorded 47 murders so far in 2004.

In Oklahoma City, 49 people were reported killed last year, up from 38 in 2002.

Overall, crime was up 2 percent in 2003, according to the report, and Oklahoma City had a greater overall rate of index crimes, more than 100 crimes per 1,000 residents. Tulsa's rate was 80 crimes per 1,000 residents.

Oklahoma City police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said the increase was, in part, related to more reporting of crimes after community outreach efforts.

``This is a very safe community,'' he said.

Still, ``any crime is too much crime,'' he said. ``Each statistic represents a real victim to us that we take seriously.''

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said the increased crime rate in Oklahoma shouldn't cause sudden panic. Crimes tend to increase during a slow economy, and the Oklahoma economy has improved since 2003.

Brown said the annual report is helpful because ``it helps police get an idea of what's going on out there in terms of crime so we can direct our efforts toward that.''

The largest category of crime in Oklahoma was larceny, with 103,404 offenses last year, up 3.2 percent from 2002.

The only categories of violent crime to decrease were rape, down 4.6 percent, with 1,501 offenses reported; and aggravated assault, down 0.5 percent, with 12,827 offenses.

Robbery was up 8.7 percent, burglaries were down 0.9 percent and auto thefts were up by 1.5 percent.

The highest number of crimes were reported in July, and generally more crimes were committed on Saturdays.

This year marks the 30th consecutive year the report has been published.