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Tulsa leaders respond after 'homicide spike' mentioned in presidential debate

Posted at 7:47 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 11:33:29-04

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa is in the national news after being mentioned during the first presidential debate.

During the first 2020 presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace said to President Donald Trump, “There has been a dramatic increase in homicides in America, this summer particularly. You often blame that on democratic mayors and democratic governors, but, in fact, there have been equivalent spikes in Republican-led cities like Tulsa and Fort Worth. Is this really a party issue?”

President Trump began his answer with “I think it’s a party issue.”

Lieutenant Brandon Watkins, lead homicide detective for the Tulsa Police Department, said he doesn't call the current homicide count a dramatic increase, but there is an increase when compared to the last two years.

In the department's online crime report, Tulsa had 56 homicides in 2019 and 61 in 2018. At more than half way through the year, 2020's homicide total is 54.

Lieutenant Watkins tracked 27 homicides between May and September in 2019. During that same period in 2020, Lt. Watkins said there are 36 homicides, so far.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum acknowledged the crime increase in a statement:

"We have seen crime rates increase in Tulsa over the course of this year, as have most cities around the country. This is not a partisan issue. We must remain vigilant and committed to proper police department staffing, technology, and innovation.

That is why we have spent the last four years funding the most significant increase in staffing in Tulsa Police Department history, and why it is so important that we do not stop hiring until our Police Department is properly staffed. That is why I hired a Chief of Police who is focused on using technology and innovation to make Tulsa safer. And that is why I am so thankful for our federal partners who are working with us through projects like the 2150 Initiative to get illegal guns out of the hands of criminals."
Mayor G.T. Bynum, City of Tulsa

A spokeswoman for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said they have not seen an increase in homicides.

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