Tahlequah Daily Press

August 14, 2013

Violent crime rate raises eyebrows


NEW YORK — Most Oklahomans, if asked which cities in their state log the most violent crimes, would probably say Oklahoma City or Tulsa. But that’s not necessarily so, according to Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit organization that generates and disseminates information on in-depth and investigative issues.

While the state’s two largest cities usually get most of the ink and air time, some smaller burgs run about dead even statistically with Tulsa, and fare even worse than OKC. That’s based on figures provided by the FBI.

Ardmore, with a population of about 24,500, was at the head of the pack, marking 405 violent crimes in 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available. That’s 1,650 per 100,000 residents, which could be cause for alarm among cities of this south-central Oklahoma city. Tulsa came in second, followed by Durant and Ada, and then OKC.

The closest city to Tahlequah that appeared in the list of the 20 most violent cities in 2011 was Muskogee, which weighed in at No. 13; it was bracketed by Glenpool at No. 12 and Okmulgee at No. 14. The only other Green Country cities on the list were Miami, at No. 17, and McAlester, rounding it out at No. 20.

It should be noted that the data point to increases in violent crime, not just its occurrence. That’s an interesting observation, since overall in the United States, violent crime declined each year from 1992 to 2011, other than 2005 and 2006. The 2011 rate was almost 50 percent lower than in 1992, according to the FBI.

And from 2007 to 2011, the drop in the country’s violent crime rate averaged about 5 percent each  year. In Oklahoma, the decline was only 1.5 percent. Most experts give the continuing economic doldrums at least part of the blame.

Where does Tahlequah fit into this picture? No one really knows, because according to Oklahoma Watch, the Tahlequah Police Department probably didn’t submit numbers to the FBI. It could have been an oversight, or the former administration may have elected not to participate. Lack of detail certainly doesn’t indicate no crime happened that year, as a search on our website can attest.

Incidentally, Hulbert did turn in figures. With its population of 596 that year, it reported one violent crime, which was an aggravated assault.

While such information may pander to the baser instincts of alarmists, ambulance chasers and rubberneckers, it’s also a matter of public record – and it’s information to which the local public should have access. We trust Police Chief Nate King will offer his constituents a more transparent look at crime in their community.