The Tahlequah police chief says there were several positives for his crew in 2020, despite a negative year.
Nate King released the 2020 Year-in-Review for the Tahlequah Police Department, wherein he discussed statistics and upcoming implementations.
“To say this past year was a challenge may be an understatement of the decade,” said King. “We found ourselves in the midst of [a] pandemic that altered the manner in which the TPD was conducting business.”
King said civil unrest stemming from law enforcement action, coupled with the pandemic and a significantly reduced budget, created unique circumstances. Officers worked seven straight 12-hour shifts to ensure continuity.
“Officers found themselves working longer hours and more consecutive days to provide police services to our city. This sacrifice should not be overlooked or taken lightly,” King said. “The men and woman of TPD showed their dedication throughout the past year, and for that I am not only proud, but grateful.”
Due to the civil unrest, TPD officers continued focus-based online training to be better prepared for split-second decisions.
According to the property crime statistics for 2020, burglaries were down 30 percent, but thefts were up 30 percent.
“The key difference between two crimes is [that] a burglary requires the unauthorized entry into a structure or vehicle,” said King. “Thefts may occur in a structure, but the person responsible had permission to be there.”
Forty-five percent of the 217 reported burglaries in 2020 were from motor vehicles. King said the increase in thefts will be a focal point in 2021.
In his “What’s Ahead” portion of the review, King explained a new initiative called Camera Canvas, wherein residents register home security systems throughout Tahlequah.
“This will not only assist us in property crime investigations, but should help neighborhoods network better together,” said King. “This information will be stored in our reporting system, which will provide the data to officers easily, once again making our investigations more efficient.”
King is also implementing a Community Policing Liaison to better connect with housing additions and neighborhoods.
“This will not be added to personnel, but instead will be taken on by [me]. Working together with [the] community should make us more effective and efficient in the reduction of property crime in Tahlequah,” said King.
In November 2020, TPD partnered with Cornerstone Fellowship with an initiative called “Home for the Holidays,” when they provided transportation for those in need.
“We were able to assist 26 people return home after being stranded in Tahlequah,” said King. “While the holiday season is over now, the availability continues to be present within the police department.”
King said they will begin focused shift work to aid those in need once it’s safe due to COVID-19.
“This program has the ability to assist several people who find themselves in need,” he said.
Lastly, a needed advancement in TPD is a police-based social worker.
“Over the years, more and more has been added to the law enforcement plate, and many items aren’t traditional law enforcement issues,” said King. “This position will be a civilian position and would assist in issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault liaison; provide resource referral to those in need; provide counseling to officers and their families; and incident debriefing for emergency services.”