Group recommends city of Tulsa help fund Crime Prevention Network tip line
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 8:09 AM
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A City Council working group that was created after the Fairmont Terrace shootings recommended Tuesday that the city help fund the nonprofit group that operates Tulsa's crime-reporting tip line.
The final recommendations of the Public Safety Intelligence Working Group include entering into a contract with the Crime Prevention Network, formerly known as the Tulsa Crime Commission, to ensure that it has annual funding from the city.
The main goal would be to help fund a massive marketing campaign for the organization's Crime Stoppers tip line, which could cost the organization at least $250,000, said Councilor G.T. Bynum, who led the working group.
"I'm really coming at this from the standpoint of we just spent millions of dollars to tell people about a trash service that they're going to have anyway - just to make them feel better about it - and yet we're not spending any money to market a tool that makes our community safer," he said.
Crime Prevention Network Director Carol Bush previously told the working group that widespread misconceptions about the anonymous tip line have discouraged residents from using the service.
She estimated that the equivalent of the group's $250,000 annual budget would be needed to adequately market the service by means such as billboards, fliers and advertisements.
"In my opinion, the city of Tulsa ought to be involved in that significantly," Bynum said.
The city previously allocated $15,000 a year for the group, but the funding was cut in response to the 2009 recession, Bush said.
None of the funding was contractually guaranteed, as the organization has operated for about seven years without a formal agreement with the city, she said.
The city's Legal Department during that span has repeatedly rejected a "memorandum of understanding" that previously outlined the relationship between the organization and the Police Department, she said.
"But we just keep going," Bush said.
The Crime Prevention Network operates the Alert Neighbors and Crime Stoppers programs and is funded entirely by donations and grants.
Bynum said he believes that the city should help fund such programs' operating costs, but he added that he wants the organization to remain independent.
Bush said that if the city becomes a major funding partner, the organization must stress its continued independence to avoid dissuading donors who might be hesitant to continue supporting what they perceive as a taxpayer-funded government program.
Jeremy Moore, a Tulsa Fire Department district chief serving as the chairman of the Crime Prevention Network's board of directors, told the working group that the organization changed its name from the Tulsa Crime Commission in January partly to distance itself from perceptions that it works for the city.
"Ironically, we spend a great deal of time talking to funders about how we are not under the umbrella of the city," he said.
The public safety working group was formed to find ways to improve communication between police and residents in the wake of the Jan. 7 quadruple homicide at the Fairmont Terrace apartments.
Its recommendations, crafted in four meetings since Jan. 15, will be presented to a City Council committee Thursday, Bynum said.
The council will later vote on whether to agree in principle with the recommendations, but any funding for the Crime Prevention Network would have to be approved along with the next fiscal year's budget.
Bynum said it will be important for the council to ensure that the recommendations spur some tangible action.
The unrelated Public Safety Task Force, which was formed last year to explore ways to improve citywide safety, recommended in December that the city help the Crime Prevention Network improve marketing, but nothing has come of it so far, Bush said.
Those recommendations did not specifically suggest city funding for the organization.
"I don't want us to come out of this and say, 'Well, we all agree we should have further talks,' and nothing ever happens," Bynum said.
The group also recommended investing in a new records management system for the Tulsa Police Department, which could cost as much as $7 million.
That funding may be included in an $800 million proposal to renew the funding behind the 2008 Fix Our Streets package, Bynum said.
The Police Department's current records management system was created in the 1970s.
Working group recommendations
Original Print Headline: Crime tip line funding urged
- The city should enter into a contract with the Crime Prevention Network to ensure annual funding from the city.
- The city should invest in a new records management system for the Tulsa Police Department, which could cost an estimated $7 million.
- The city should examine the cost of hiring local Crime Stoppers operators, who are now based out of state.
- Police officers should be given business cards with Crime Stoppers information to hand out.
- Crime Stoppers information should be distributed in residents' utility bills and on the city's website.
- The city should continue working with the District Attorney's Office to explore options for a local witness protection program.
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Councilor G.T. Bynum: A marketing campaign for tip line will help the community, he says.
Crime Prevention Network Director Carol Bush: She wants the city involved.