MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 19, 2013

Ward I hopefuls back larger police force

Jones, Lowrimore say larger force would keep citizens safer

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Statistics show that one of every 170 Muskogee residents has a chance of being the victim of a violent crime while just one of every 220 Oklahomans faces that fate.

Discussions within the community addressing ways to curb Muskogee’s crime rate have ranged from poverty reduction to early childhood intervention. Two candidates competing for the Ward I City Council seat, incumbent David Jones and second-time candidate John Lowrimore, placed their faith in a larger police force.

The Ward I candidates’ made that argument despite the fact Muskogee’s police force already exceeds the average for cities of comparable size. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, cities the size of Muskogee average 1.8 commissioned officers for every 1,000 residents.

Muskogee Police Department employed 91 commissioned officers in 2012, resulting with 2.32 officers for every 1,000 residents who live here. The per capita police to population ratio for cities of all sizes in the United States averages 2.5 officers for every 1,000 residents.

When Ward I candidates were asked what they believed the city could do to improve public safety and lower the crime rate, Jones said he would “support increasing the police force.” Jones also said the city should ensure officers have “up-to-date technology and training” and make “it clear that criminals will be punished.”

“I believe in strength in numbers,” Jones said. “I would support any move to increase the number of policemen on the streets.”

Lowrimore said he believes “the city needs to keep the number of police officers up.” He also advocated the need for a counseling programs to those who lack a support network.

“I believe being a safe community is the No. 1 thing most people look at before moving into the town.” Lowrimore said. “We want Muskogee to continue to be the greatest and safest it possibly can be by (making) wiser decisions on and off the streets.”

With regard to the City Council’s role in the effort to reduce Muskogee’s crime rate, Jones said councilors should “support local law enforcement.” That support, Jones said, would be demonstrated by making “sure that we have the right people making good decisions.”

Jones’ challenger said city councilors “should play a role in making the decisions on how many police officers” are on duty. Lowrimore also expressed support for counseling programs to address the “crime problems we see everyday.”

The candidates also offered a couple of ideas they would be willing to present for consideration in an effort to improve public safety and lower Muskogee’s crime rate. Jones said he would propose a public awareness program that would “better educate the citizens of Muskogee as to what our police force is doing to prevent crime.”

Lowrimore said he “would present a counseling program that has people that can help people that are having issues.” He envisions that program somewhat as a “second parent that people need if they don’t have that extra support.”

Jones and Lowrimore will square off Jan. 14 in the 2014 general election. Residents who are eligible to vote must be registered by today in order to cast a ballot in this contest, which is restricted to voters who live within the northeast Muskogee ward.

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