In 2017, Tulsa ranked number 12 out of 61 other urban centers in the United States for highest murder rates per capita, according to the slideshow of Deadliest Cities in the U.S. published by CBS News.
When looking at the numbers, Tulsa truly earns it’s ranking as one of the deadliest cities. Tulsa, Oklahoma had a whopping 11.6 homicides per capita while New York City only had 2.36 homicides per capita.
With this shockingly high rate of crime, many people are worried about getting shot on their way to work school or church.
19-year-old Cristal Gutierrez-Garza and her fiancé Alvaro Mondragon were driving in downtown Tulsa on the night of Thursday, April 30, 2015, when a man pulled up next to their car at a traffic light.
After waiting for the traffic light to change, the man then proceeded to shoot at the vehicle multiple times, hitting Gutierrez-Garza. She died overnight.
Gutierrez-Garza graduated from Jenks Alternative Center in 2014 and was a very involved and well-known student at the school. She was very kind-hearted to everyone and even left sticky notes for some of her favorite teachers.
While this fatal drive-by shooting may seem random and unpredictable, there was more going on under the surface.
The suspect who shot Gutierrez-Garza was Hao Le. When Le pulled up to the side of the vehicle, he intended to hit Mondragon, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat.
Modragon recently broke into Le’s apartment and Le wanted revenge. He bought a gun for $600 and picked it up at an East Tulsa convenient store the day of the shooting.
Although an innocent bystander was killed as a result of this botched drive-by, the people involved were clearly living lifestyles that an everyday citizen would not participate in.
Brandon Watkins works for the Tulsa Police Department as the Sargeant of the Homicide Unit. As a police officer for 21 years and counting, he has seen anything from burglaries to homicides to armed robberies. He shed light on the situation.
“It happens. There are people who are at work and a robbery goes bad and somebody gets shot and killed. That being said, the vast majority of them are people who for whatever reason are living high-risk lifestyles.” Explains Sgt. Watkins.
Although this situation can happen from time to time, Sgt. Watkins makes it clear that this type of crime happens very infrequently.
“I wouldn’t say going to work is living a high-risk lifestyle.” Encourages Sgt. Watkins.
Although Tulsa gained recognition for its number of homicides, this is not even the main risk that Tulsa residents face. In the year 2017 Tulsa had 75 homicides, but it also had 423 rapes, 2,757 aggravated assaults, and 5,574 burglaries.
“When I was in burglary we would get about 16,000 cases a year… I think everybody at some point is going to be a victim of a burglary, a burglary from a vehicle or larsony.” Sgt. Watkins expounded.”
Since the main risk a Tulsa residents faces from day-to-day is theft, Sgt. Watkins shares some easy precautionary steps to take.
The first thing Watkins shared was to simply make sure you lock your stuff up. But he also gave another piece of advice that most people do not consider to do.
“Write down serial numbers for everything that is valuable, because all of that stuff does get traced… We run the serial numbers whenever we recover stuff, but the vast majority of people don’t write down their serial numbers.” Explains Watkins.
Lori Fullbright, the crime reporter for News On 6, also shared some valuable tips and tricks for staying safe in the Tulsa area.
She explains how any normal looking person can be a criminal. The trend is seen in the victim. A criminal will approach people who look like an easy target.
There are several ways to avoid being or appearing like an easy target. The first, is to walk tall and with confidence, being aware of your surroundings. The second is to not let people get to close to you.
“It’s better to be rude to a total stranger than to be a victim,” Fullbright explains.
Fullbright also gives some tips on what to do if you become a victim or are being attacked.
“Criminals hate noise,” Fullbright expounds. She encourages people to carry a whistle with them, because it will draw attention to people around.
“Give them your property. If it’s you they want, then do whatever you can,” she says.
Fullbright also explained how nothing of value should be left in the car. Criminals know that everyone puts their purse under the seat. That is the first place they will look. It is better if you leave nothing for them to find.
Tulsa does have considerably high crime rates compared to other major cities, but the real danger is found when people are not smart about their safety.
The main threat to a Tulsa resident is burglary and that can easily be prevented with the right precautionary steps. Take them.