- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The Tulsa Police Department investigated 58 homicides in 2015, 7 percent more than the previous year.

Deaths caused by gang violence and child abuse or neglect contributed to the increase. Six of the homicides recorded in 2015 involved children ages 10 and younger, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1JnkMUa ).

Melissa Gantz, a child specialist for the Child Abuse Network, said severe child abuse cases, unfortunately, occur too regularly. The Child Abuse Network provides forensic interviews, mental health consultations and other support services for families that have open cases with law enforcement and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

“It can stretch our resources when things pick up in the community and get more busy,” Gantz said of the caseload.

Many of the abuse and neglect cases seen by authorities involve harm caused by a caregiver or other adult who does not have experience taking care of children, she said. That’s why it’s important for parents to monitor their own stress levels in addition to those of the people who supervise their children.

Tulsa Police Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker, who has supervised the homicide unit since 2011, said the types of homicides fluctuate from year to year but that 2015 was unusual due to an uptick of violent gang activity.

“We had three where the bullets hit the mark and killed somebody, and on a couple of those they weren’t even the attempted target,” he said. “Those would ordinarily be shooting with intent to kill or another lesser charge.”

Gang-related homicides take longer for police to close because it is more difficult to get potential witnesses to come forward as they often fear retribution, Walker said. And because gang-related homicides are harder to close, the department’s clearance rate is down to 81 percent from an average of 85 percent.

The Tulsa Police Department has 11 open homicide cases for 2015.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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