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Aggravated assaults on the rise, OKC police chief says

Bill Citty

Bill Citty

Serious assaults are on the rise, with little prospect for driving them below 2016 levels, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said Tuesday.

The department's goal by the end of this year was to reduce aggravated assaults citywide by 5 percent, or 171 incidents, from 2017 levels.

Instead, the most violent assaults remained on the rise in 2018, and Citty said final figures are likely to show a significant increase.

Aggravated assault is the statistic "that bothers me the most," Citty said, adding the trends can be indicative of where other categories of crime are headed.

Aggravated assaults are back near 2012 levels after hitting a low in 2015, before returning to an upward trajectory.

"I like to look at that as more of a red flag than I do homicide," which was down in 2018, the chief told the city council.

"What I say about homicide is, homicide is an assault with the worst outcome. All these have the potential to be homicides," he said.

Citty said much of the violence is gang- and drug-related, "most of it is firearms-related."

"Not all firearms," he said. "Could be a baseball bat, could be a knife, could be a lot of different things."

"There's things you can do to lower it but a lot of it in the end is boots on the ground," Citty said, "keeping enough visibility out there, paying attention to what's going on, the officers out there working the streets."

Reviewing crime trends, Citty said:

• Police reported 52 homicides in 2018, down from 81 in 2017. The number omits officer-involved killings and three justifiable homicides committed by citizens, he said.

• Rape remains on increase. Citty said much of the increase is attributable to greater awareness and reporting by victims, and is in line with trends in other major cities.

"There's much more awareness with domestic violence, with sexual assaults, with abuse toward women," the chief said.

"As a society we're doing a much better job of recognizing and supporting those people that have been sexually assaulted. 

"For the longest time we've known there are crimes that go unreported just because of the embarrassment, feeling like they're being victimized twice by the system," he said.

• Robberies are trending down, with the ubiquity of video being partially responsible. Videos posted on social media and at CrimeStoppers help deter robberies; the department is hiring retired officers part-time to go out and retrieve video for investigators.

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›