The Oklahoma City Police Department is trying to help the homeless and curb the amount of vacant house fires across the city. They are hoping to make a difference with a two-officer team that works out of the Bricktown police station.
The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) was started back in 2014. Together, the two members respond to various complaints.
"We do the panhandler complaints, the camp complaints and we do vacant structures,” said HOT Team member Sgt. Bobby Prater.
According to the Oklahoma City Fire Department, in 2018 there have been seven vacant fire fatalities and over 90 vacant building fires. Some of those have happened just in the last few days, including two on Sunday, November 18.
Sgt. Prater said his team tries to help by checking and marking vacant structures.
"So, we go out once a week with the health department," said Sgt. Prater. "We try to investigate."
If they do find a structure that people shouldn't be living in, they mark it.
"If it's found that it's an unoccupied structure without water, then the health department is placarding it as unfit for habitation," said Sgt. Prater.
He said if the building is not secure, they contact the homeowner to let them know. Sgt. Prater said the team usually gets a good response.
Even though the HOT Team works closely and communicates with the fire department, firefighters are not a part of the team.
Both departments are urging people to take action if they see people living in a vacant building.
Residents can fill out an action center request at OKC.gov, or, if they see something actively happening, they can call 911.