Tuesday night, a crowd of northwest Oklahoma residents and business owners packed into the cafeteria of Greenvale Elementary to celebrate a crime prevention program now entering its third year.
Officially called the Safe Oklahoma Act, (SOA) the grant awarded more than $350,000 to the community in 2013. It covers the area from North Council Rd. to North Meridan Ave. and Melrose Ln. to Northwest 27th St., which once boasted hundreds of violent crimes a year and more than a dozen murders.
“We've been able, through the grant to lower the crime levels in this particular area,” Oklahoma City police Major Dexter Nelson said. Nelson is one of two majors responsible for the areas covered by the grant.
Since 2013, the crime rate has dropped 27.3 percent, according to OCPD. So far, 2015 is shaping up to have a high number of homicides, with 65 already in the books. But the neighborhoods under the SOA haven’t had a single one.
Police credit the style of policing that has come out of the SOA. It’s called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
“It's more than community oriented policing,” Nelson said. It's officers getting out of their cars, getting information from them, getting them to work with the police department to help police their own neighborhood.”
Police have even advocated for better sidewalks, better kept lawns and bushes, and brighter street lights. All of which they said makes a difference psychologically for criminals and potential victims by making crimes in progress easier to see.
“It's been really kind of instrumental in improving the clientele and reducing the crime and everything in the apartments,” Gary Whiteman, who manages several apartment complexes, said.
"Very, very, very safe. I feel myself safe there,” said Yesenia Duque who used to bring pepper spray with her to work before the implementation of CPTED.
The money for the grant has been decreasing over the last couple years. Nelson said he did not know the specific amount set for 2015. He added the hope is the community will be able to stable enough to help police itself, or at a minimum have a manageable amount of crime for OCPD officers so resources can be sent to other trouble spots around Oklahoma City.