On patrol: Tulsa's 61st and Peoria area notorious to police
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2013
1/23/13 at 9:52 AM
last week’s homicides
at Fairmont Terrace.
Read stories from
Sunday’s focus on the
long-term issues at
61st and Peoria.
As Officer Florentino Chairez cruises down a dark Riverside Drive, his radio crackles that other officers need help with some unruly subjects.
It's a call he takes all the time. But the area he is headed toward - near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue - gives him the gut feeling that comes when the adrenaline starts flowing, he said.
"It's pretty common for us to go three or four cars deep, just for protection," Chairez said. "There are pockets in this area that are more trouble, so to speak, than other areas."
Officers especially use backup when they roll to tense situations in apartment complexes such as Fairmont Terrace, where four women were shot to death last week.
Rebeika Powell, 23; Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23; Misty Nunley, 33; and Julie Jackson, 55, were found dead in an apartment about 12:35 p.m. Jan. 7.
Their deaths brought the number of people killed in the area of 61st and Peoria in the last two years to eight. A Tulsa World analysis indicates that while killings have decreased citywide since 2009, the homicide rate in the 61st and Peoria area has remained steady or sometimes increased, as it did in 2011.
The area's reputation for being a hotbed of crime is a reality that Chairez patrols several nights a week.
Chairez, 30, graduated from the Tulsa Police Academy in June and hit the streets on his own last month. A Tulsa-area native, he had heard about the crime issues around 61st and Peoria before, but he didn't realize how much police work is done there until he was on patrol in the area.
"It's different when you see it firsthand," Chairez said. "I'm constantly going over there for trespassing (calls). Typically they have drugs or paraphernalia."
On a night last week, Chairez patrolled in the Riverside Division's George Squad, which covers an area between approximately 11th Street and 91st Street from Peoria Avenue to the western city limits. He was a rover, meaning he didn't have a squad assignment but went where he was needed.
He drove to a couple of vehicle burglary calls near the northern limits of the squad's territory, taking reports from people who had valuables stolen from their cars.
Chairez said he always wanted to be a police officer. Acknowledging that his reasons for doing so might be cliché, he said he wanted to help people.
"I've done a bit of everything - restaurant, construction," Chairez said. "This is, hands-down, the best job I've had. I like the adrenaline."
After he had cleared the burglary calls, several officers came over the radio asking for another unit to assist. Several people were allegedly trespassing and intoxicated at a convenience store near 61st and Peoria.
The men were in handcuffs by the time Chairez arrived, and the tension had lessened. But still fresh in his mind as pedestrians milled about in the dark was one of the first lessons police officers learn: Be prepared.
"You get a call that comes out, and you have to create the mental picture of the possibilities of what could happen," he said. "You have to be prepared before you get out of the vehicle."
That's especially true for the 61st and Peoria area, he said.
Maj. Julie Harris, head of the Riverside Division, said the area is a focus for her units.
"Anytime I have extra manpower, they're over there," she said.
On the streets, Chairez said he sees more people roaming around there than in other places. Most of the time it's innocent, but a police presence can help cut down on those who may be looking for a target, he said.
"I think just by having the police car driving up and down the street really keeps down a lot of crime," he said.
Several factors contribute to the high crime rates in the area, and the killings last week brought attention to them.
Chairez said the quadruple homicide didn't come as a big surprise to him, even though it was especially heinous.
"I didn't expect it, but it wasn't a shock," he said. "For someone to go in and kill four people, that's cold."
Homicides by year
|Year||61st & Peoria area*||Citywide||Percentage|
|1989||0||39|| - |
|1991||0||49|| - |
|1997||0||43|| - |
|2001||0||44|| - |
|2006||0||56|| - |
|2007||0||64|| - |
*Area defined as Riverside Drive to Trenton Avenue, 55th Street to 71st Street
Source: Tulsa World archives
World Staff Writer Curtis Killman contributed to this story.
Original Print Headline: Focus on crime
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Tulsa Police Officer Florentino Chairez (left) watches while another officer searches a man who was arrested on a public intoxication complaint near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue in south Tulsa on Thursday night. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Tulsa Police Officer Florentino Chairez takes notes at a burglary call. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Officer Florentino Chairez (right) helps another officer as they release a man who was detained and cited for trespassing and loitering outside a gas station at 61st Street and Peoria Avenue. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World