Sunday: Residents of crime-ridden 61st and Peoria seek answers
BY CARY ASPINWALL and CURTIS KILLMAN, World Staff Writers and ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 3:07 PM
Continuing coverage: Read continuing coverage of the homicides at Fairmont Terrace.
The neighborhood encompassing 61st and Peoria Avenue needed a name, an identity — something other than the “south Tulsa ghetto,” or the “South Peoria pocket slum.”
After all, there are nice homes here, too, and hard-working people who wait in the rain for bus rides to work, walk their kids to school and go to church on Sundays to ask the Lord for a little help.
More than a decade ago, they renamed it Riverwood. They designed new signs, defined the boundaries, had neighborhood meetings, made plans for a community center, fought for progress, improvements and carried a sense of pride.
But crime and a downward economic spiral fought back against their hard-won progress. The new name never really stuck.
In the wake of a brutal quadruple homicide that took the lives of four women in publicly financed apartments, locals are wondering: What happened to Riverwood, and how can we get it back?
Four women — Rebeika Powell, 23; Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23; Misty Nunley, 33; and Julie Jackson, 55 — were found shot to death in the Fairmont Terrace apartments midday Monday. Rebeika Powell’s 3-year-old son was found at the scene, uninjured.
Police are still searching for the killer or killers. They have questioned several people but made no arrests, asking for the community’s help and patience as they do the difficult work.
Fairmont Terrace has been the scene of eight killings in the past two years, including the four Monday.
Killings have decreased citywide since 2009 but the homicide rate in the area of 61st and Peoria has remained steady and sometimes increased, as it did in 2011, a Tulsa World analysis shows.
Those who’ve lived there long enough remember it as once placid and peaceful, with crime increasing after the oil bust hit local real estate hard in the 1980s. There were crime waves in the mid-90s, early 2000s and now since 2011.
Homicides and violent assaults became the headlines that got the neighborhood noticed.
Much of the violent crime in Riverwood (the area between 51st and 71st streets and Riverside Drive and Lewis Avenue) has occurred within a handful of complexes using tax dollars to offer affordable housing options to low-income individuals.
Many of the complexes are owned by limited liability companies formed by out-of-state investors. The companies take a “hands-off” approach to management and aren’t bothered by the crime as long as the checks keep coming, say longtime residents of the area.
Records show Fairmont Terrace is owned by two California-based limited liability companies: D.K. Ukiah Properties LLC and 1574 Pacific LLC.
Community activists and neighbors say recent efforts to communicate with Fairmont Terrace’s owners about safety concerns have been unsuccessful.
Records list Constance Reynolds of Alameda, Calif., as the sole member and manager of 1574 Pacific LLC, while Doug Solis of Mendocino County, Calif., is listed as managing member of DK Ukiah Properties LLC.
HUD did not respond to a World request for information about its policies and inspections of Fairmont Terrace.
A Tulsa World investigation has found that 17 multi-family properties accept Section 8 rental subsidies exist in the area surrounding Fairmont Terrace, excluding small developments of a few units. Eight of those propoerties are owned by out-of-state interests.
In terms of total individual Section 8 apartment units, out-of-state interests own about two-thirds of those available in the area.
Four properties, including Fairmont Terrace, are “project-based Section 8” developments owned by private companies. Funds are paid directly to the owner by HUD and cannot be used by the tenant elsewhere.
The remaining properties on the list are privately owned and accept Section 8 vouchers from tenants who qualify and have made it to the top of the program’s waiting list. If the tenant leaves the complex, the voucher travels with them to their new residence.
The first of these properties in Riverwood was built in 1965 and the last was built in 1985, as oil prices were plummeting. Employers fled, and so did residents who could afford to move elsewhere.
Those left behind often lived in fear, as crime rates spiked. Killings, robberies, drug deals, vandalism and other crimes became increasingly common at some of the complexes.
Read more in Sunday's World.
Lanny Endicott, a clinical social worker and neighborhood resident, talks about Fairmont Terrace (background) and his work in the community around 61st Street and Peoria Avenue. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World