MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 8, 2013

Pruitt cites office's efforts against violent crime, fraud

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt touted his office’s increased emphasis on addressing violent crime and efforts to prosecute fraud claims as successes realized during his first three years in office.

Pruitt said he is particularly concerned about an apparent rise in violent crime. He cited an anomaly during the past year or two of increasing violent crime rates that Oklahoma shares with only three other states.

“I am very concerned about public safety from a state perspective right now,” Pruitt said during a meeting Wednesday with the Phoenix editorial board. “When you look at the state of Oklahoma over the last year or year and a half, it is one of only four states that has seen a rising violent crime rate.”

To address the issue, Pruitt said he is working with law enforcers across the state to “prevent crime,” not just react to it. That is being accomplished partly through a justice reinvestment initiative grant program approved by state lawmakers and administered by Pruitt’s office.

“That is one of the things I don’t think is discussed enough at Oklahoma City,” Pruitt said about the need to address crime prevention. “How do we partner with local communities to do more to prevent crime — we know what works in certain areas.”

What works, Pruitt said, is “boots on the ground, ... intelligence-based policing (and) being able to look at hot spots” where law enforcers can “concentrate resources.” Those techniques, he said, have been proven to work in cities both outside and inside Oklahoma.

“There were some criminologists who believed that if you concentrate resources in a particular area that it would just cause the crime to migrate or dissipate to other parts of the cities,” said Pruitt, who played host in April to a National Association of Attorneys General conference to discuss best practices for crime prevention. “That is not what is being found in the studies: When you concentrate your resources in hot spots ... what happens is crime goes down, it is not displaced.”

Pruitt said grants awarded this year and those to be awarded in the future will be used to further crime prevention. As an example of how that funding is being used, he cited efforts in Oklahoma City to focus on code enforcement to address blight, which tends to breed criminal activity.

Pruitt said prosecution of fraud in workers’ compensation and insurance had increased 62 percent during his tenure. Every dollar spent prosecuting fraud has produced $6 in restitution payments, he said.

“We are sending a message that we are going to take fraud seriously, not only workers’ compensation but insurance fraud” as well, he said.

The attorney general also expressed concerns about consumer fraud, saying his office had 30 investigators in the field within 24 hours after several deadly storms hit the state this year. Those investigators immediately discovered “examples of travelers who were coming into the state to take advantage of Oklahoma citizens,” he said.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.