TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa is no stranger to violent crime, but the police department's solve rate for deadly crimes ranks among the top in the U.S.
In 2021, 62 people lost their lives at the hands of another — five of those cases remain unsolved. So far in 2022, Tulsa has had 56 homicides, 53 of which detectives have already solved.
Tulsa police say losing a loved one to an act of violence can bring pain like no other.
"When we go do a death notification, they probably only remember 10% of what we tell them," said Tulsa Police Homicide Detective Jason White. "They are in shock. It's the worse day of their life."
The Tulsa Police Department's homicide unit has had a 94% solve rate over the past two years, with an overall 90% solve rate each year. The national solve rate according to the FBI in 2019 was 61%.
"The number one thing we do, and I think we do it exceptionally well, is our ability to communicate with witnesses and families and that right there is pretty important with respect to this job," White said. "I think the other thing that really separates us from other things around the country is teamwork."
The homicide unit is made up of 10 detectives and is led by Lt. Brandon Watkins. He has been on the force for 25 years and has been in homicide for the past four years.
"What they recommend a detective work would be only three homicides a year and we get 6-to-9," Watkins said. "Our detectives — they don't get much of a break."
He credits his detective's teamwork when it comes to solving their cases.
"They have a good working relationship with people. They have a great working relationship with the district attorney's office, and they make thing happen and the detectives here are just outstanding," says Watkins.
When confronting violent crime, he admits it can really take a toll on your mental health.
"There are things that you see that stick with you and live with you and you know I don't make no bones about it; I've gone to therapy over a couple of scenes that we've had," he said.
White has been with the homicide unit for more than 13 years. He believes another key to their success is their ability to communicate with witnesses and families, as well as the City of Tulsa.
"We don't get constricted that it's the police department or the City of Tulsa," White said. "They allow us to have the resources necessary to do this job and price is not a concern. I think our clearance rate is one of the best in the country. I don't know of any other city that comes to mind that has a clearance rate higher than ours."
White says they have other departments from all over the country calling them to find out what they are doing differently here in Tulsa. Another weapon the department has is the Office of the District Attorney.
"Our DA is really aggressive, and it seems like everything goes right for Tulsa in these investigations," Watkins said.
Homicide detectives stress that "word on the street" can give them a starting point in an investigation, but without someone willing to do the right thing and testify, the information is not likely going to be allowed in court.
White says it's important to note that DNA, fingerprints and video footage are rarely the only reasons a case is solved. If you or someone you know has information involving a violent crime, you can contact homicide detectives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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