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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Tulsa homicide rate lower for year

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  • While several high-profile killings shocked many Tulsans in 2012, the number of homicides is the lowest it has been in a decade.
     
    Tulsa police reported 46 people killed by another person in 2012, the lowest number of homicides since 34 were reported in 2002, police said.
     
    The 46 deaths last year include three people killed and two more injured in seemingly random shootings on the streets of north Tulsa on Good Friday, two people shot to death outside a Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon, a teen who was shot the day after she graduated from high school and an elderly woman brutally beaten to death in her home.
     
    Those homicides drew national attention to Tulsa, but many didn't get that same publicity and some remain unsolved. Open cases include the death of a pregnant 19-year-old woman, a 13-year-old shot to death in the street and several deaths that occurred in December that homicide detectives see as a possible uptick in gang activity.
     
    Sgt. Dave Walker, lead homicide detective with the Tulsa Police Department, said it's difficult to point to one reason for a decline in the number of violent deaths. Increased pressure on gangs and known criminals by multiple TPD divisions and law enforcement agencies is helping to get known criminals and guns off the streets, which he said is a factor.
     
    "If you're putting pressure on the right folks, you're going to see a decline," Walker said.
     
    Tulsa area law enforcement carried out its third year of Operation Triple Beam last fall, which last year netted 146 arrests of "violent gang members," 29 recovered firearms, $20,000 in cash and $22,300 worth of drugs.
     
    "We don't know how much crime we've suppressed by going after certain groups and certain targets," Walker told the Tulsa World. "It's still old-fashioned police work. We got to go in the dirt and get after it and clean it up."
     
    Homicide numbers across the nation dropped to lows not seen in decades in 2012. New York City had the lowest number of homicides since reliable records began in the 1960s, down drastically from the 2,000 murders reported some years in the 1990s. Washington, D.C., ended the year below 100.
     
    Other cities have seen dramatic increases, including Chicago and Oklahoma City. Oklahoma's capital reached 99 deaths in 2012, its highest number since 102 people were killed in 1979, excluding the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.
     
    Oklahoma City police officials said gangs and drug activity were a major factor for the elevated crime rate.
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    Of the 46 Tulsa homicides this year, Walker said that about 12 are believed to have some tie to gangs, with at least the offender or victim having gang ties even if the killing itself is not tied to gang activity.
     
    Walker said the last two homicides in Tulsa may have had ties to gang activity, which is a concern going into 2013.
     
    "We did not really want to see it hit in December or hit at all," Walker said. "It means we didn't solve the problem, so there are still guns and there are still kids out there who have access to them and that's the way they're solving their differences."
     
    Walker said the department plans to push harder and consistently on the groups they know are responsible for problems to try to tamp down any gang activity that may be on the rise.
     
    The homicide unit has a clearance rate in 2012 above 80 percent, with nine of 2012's homicides still open.
     
    "The thing is about all those high-profile ones is they are solved," Walker said. "We come in here, we don't look at the ones we have solved. We look at the ones we haven't solved, what are we missing, what piece of the puzzle is out there that we need to get."
     
    Others have caused problems for detectives. In most cases, the detectives have a good idea who may have committed the crime, but without witness cooperation, detectives can't make that final leap to make the arrest, Walker said.
     
    For the families and friends of those unsolved homicides, closure is elusive.
     
    Kunta Jordan, 35, was found dead in his vehicle early on April 20 outside the McKinley Apartments, 6618 E. Latimer Place. Detectives are still investigating, but need people to come forward.
     
    "They just say they have leads but no definite stuff," said his widow, Karnetha Jordan. "Not enough to take to the DA for an arrest."
     
    "We want it to be solved. Kunta is not just a number. He's a human being, and he is missed."
     
    Kunta Jordan had drug convictions in the past, but his family and friends said he was working to turn his life around.
     
    He coached youth football and basketball with the Tulsa Youth Athletic Association and led his second-grade teams to undefeated seasons and championships last year. His teams were coached this year by his friends, and the football team repeated its championship run in November.
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    "He wasn't only just a father to my kids and his son, he was a father to a lot of kids who didn't have a daddy," Karnetha Jordan said. "He was crazy about those kids."
     
    She said she doesn't ever expect full closure on the loss of her husband. Progress on the case would help at least answer the questions that remain.
     
    It frightens some people to know that the person who killed Kunta Jordan could still be out there, said Michael Goodrum, who helped coach the team after Jordan was killed.
     
    "We don't get closure," Goodrum said. "It's just that what if. You don't know if you're looking at the man and he's right in front of your face. It's a weird feeling."
     
    Walker said detectives will continue to work each case, but they encourage people with pertinent information to come forward.
     
    "It's frustrating to know there are people out there who know information that will get us over the hump to get charges filed," Walker said. "Somebody is going to give up that information as long as we're looking at it."

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