TULSA - The space in the lower levels of Tulsa Police Department headquarters used to house the property room and lab, but over the coming months, will be transformed into housing for victims of domestic violence.
The empty space will be home to Family Safety Center, currently housed at 31st and Harvard, and is expected to serve as the front lines for fighting domestic abuse in Tulsa.
The center provides an array of services to victims, such as allowing victims to file for emergency protective orders, file police reports, get legal advice, seek counseling and make a safety plan. The center can even help victims find a safe place to stay.
Meredith Stanton, an assistant district attorney with Tulsa County, says the city and TPD are helping to secure the center's future by donating the office space and paying the utilities.
"That gives a better chance of the family safety center continuing on," Stanton said. "There was a time recently, when we didn't know if we would have enough funding to continue with the family safety center at it's current location."
"Don't think it can't happen to you because it can," said Angie Short. "I still to this day, after almost six years, can't believe it happened to Brooke and Kia."
Angie Short's niece, Brooke Whitaker, and Brooke's 6-month-old daughter Kia were murdered by Brooke's ex-boyfriend, Raymond Johnson.
Johnson had beaten and threatened to kill Brooke. She filed for a protective order and spent two weeks staying with family. But when she returned home, Johnson was waiting for her. He beat Brooke with a hammer and set her house on fire with Brooke and Kia still alive inside.
Short urges victims to have the courage to leave and take advantage of the services the Family Service Center offers.
"She had no idea how violent he was or what he was capable of," Short said. "So it would have helped, looking back, we definitely would have referred to something like this."
Works is scheduled to begin on the new location in the very near future. The entire project is expected to be complete by September of this year.
Staton says a federal grant will fund four new positions. One of those positions will be an assistant DA that will prosecute violent offenders.
"We have formed a high-risk team," Stanton said. "They will identify the most high risk offenders and the victims most in need of assistance."
Stanton says the team will encourage victims to not only file charges, but to follow through with the prosecution of the cases. Stanton says that a step in the process where victims often change their minds.