Mayor calls special meeting to address crime

McAlester Mayor John Browne

With car burglaries on the increase, Mayor John Browne is calling a special meeting to address crime in McAlester.

It's set for 5:30 p.m. on June 18, a Tuesday, in the Seminar Center on the south end of the Kiamichi Technology Center.

"There has been a lot of talk around about how much crime is going on," Browne said. "If it's a concern to the citizens, it's a concern to the city."

Crimes being perpetuated include burglaries, thefts and vehicle break-ins. Much of the current crime involves vehicles, said Police Chief Gay Wansick.

"Most of the crime we're having right now is car burglaries," Wansick said. "In Oklahoma, it's considered burglary in the second degree."

Mayor Browne expects several matters to be addressed during the meeting.

"We'll talk about setting up a Neighborhood Watch Committee and how to avoid becoming a victim of a crime," Browne said.

The mayor said he's invited several local and state officials to participate, including District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan. Sullivan indicated he will be there unless something prevents it, Browne said.

"He will talk about how and why things happen through the DA's office," said Browne.

Wansick and Police Community Outreach Officer / School Resource Officer Jeremy Busby are expected to attend.

Browne said he has also invited District 17 State Rep. Jim Grego, District 18 State Rep. David Smith, and District 7 State Sen. Larry Boggs to attend the meeting. As of early Friday, Browne said Grego was the only one who had confirmed he planned to attend the special meeting.

Asked how the meeting came about, Browne said he called it after getting input from some other city officials, including the police chief and City Manager Pete Stasiak.

"I spoke with Chief Wansick and the city manager," Browne said. They all decided it would be a good idea to get the meeting together, the mayor said.

What does he hope to accomplish?

"Educating the public and setting up more neighborhood watches," Browne said. "People learning the simple things that can be done to help prevent them from being the victim of a crime."

Wansick said Friday that many car burglaries are crimes of opportunity, with those committing the thefts most often getting inside the vehicles without breaking a window glass, although that sometimes occurs as well. Sometimes all that's taken is change such as coins that's in a cup or on the console, he said. Crime victim numbers would undoubtedly be higher if all of the break-ins were reported.

"I bet lots of times people don't report it," said Wansick.

He said police have stepped up patrols in the citalong with the  checking of packs carried by people riding bicycles or walking late at night.

Like the mayor, Wansick  hopes the June 18 meeting will have tangible results.

"I look forward to meeting with the community and working together to resolve these issues," Wansick said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com