GRAYSON, CARTER & BRYAN COUNTIES -- Violent crimes are on the rise in the U.S. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports nationwide, the number of burglaries, property crimes and thefts in 2011 rose to their highest levels in two decades.
We compared crime rates in three Texoma counties to those across the U.S. and found the same trends. But when it comes to violent crimes, police say residents shouldn't be alarmed or feel unsafe, but they do need to be aware of what to watch out for in their area.
When it comes to murder, one of the most violent crimes of all, Bryan, Carter and Grayson counties seem to be average or below average in the number of incidences.
In 2011, three people were killed in Bryan county. Carter county had three murders as well. After Grayson county saw an abnormal spike of 11 murders in 2010, they were back to the average for the population-- four.
It's the spike in felonious assaults that some could see as alarming. For example, in 2010 Carter county had 366 assaults. That number jumped to 487 in 2011. 70 percent of those happened in Ardmore alone.
"The assaults have gone up approximately a third. I really don't have a reason for that other than society is becoming more violent as we go along and the fact that there's a lot of them that are reported here," Chief Mann said.
Ardmore Police Chief Keith Mann says he thinks Ardmore is a safer place than it was a few years ago.
"I don't feel that there's anywhere in Ardmore that is unsafe for people to go. We concentrate our patrols in areas where the crime rates the highest," Mann said.
We asked Chief Mann if gangs contribute to the high numbers, but he says Ardmore's gang activity is relatively low. He blames it on something else.
"The sad thing is that our society has become more violent and more people in our society use drugs either recreationally, or are addicted to them and they commit a lot of crimes in order to supply those needs," Mann said.
Sherman Police Chief Tom Watt agrees.
"My experience tells me that the overwhelming majority of criminal offenses are tied to drugs," Watt said.
Sherman has seen an increase in robberies and Grayson county as a whole has seen an increase in assaults, larceny and rape.
"We're always concerned when we have any crime. We'd like to have a crime rate of zero. Obviously, that's not possible. But sure, we are concerned about that and we take every step that we can to try and inform the citizens of our town," Watt said.
Both police Chiefs say residents should not feel unsafe. Director of SOSU's criminal justice department, Dr. Hallie Stephens, says most victims know their assailant.
"The likelihood that an average person is going to be the victim of a violent crime is very small," Stephens said.
In fact, of the nine murders in the three counties in 2011, 78 percent of the victims knew their assailant. But why the spike in violent crimes? Stephens says there are many factors to blame like the economy and socioeconomic status of people in a community. Chief Watt says all of these factors make controlling crime difficult.
"It is very very difficult reducing the crime rate. Law enforcement, though we'd like to think we can bring the crime rate down all by ourselves, it's just not possible," Watt said.
Both police Chiefs stress the importance of being aware of crime trends in your community. Avoid places you've noticed making the news such as dangerous bars or parks at night. Lock the doors to your car and home. Taking these steps could prevent you from becoming a victim.
These statistics were from Texas Uniform Crime Reports and the OSBI Uniform crime report in Oklahoma.
(One 2011 Grayson county murder is still unsolved.)