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Wednesday March 27th 2019

Police Chief James T. Smith Getting Lawton Back on Track

Editor’s Note: At the time the author interviewed Chief Smith, there had been 11 homicides in Lawton in 2013. That number jumped to 12 when Traci Young was killed by her ex-husband on July 25, 2013.

As of July 25, the city of Lawton has seen 12 homicides since the new year. Not surprisingly, citizens are concerned and want to know what measure are being taken to help curtail the violent crimes in their city.

To prevent future crimes, Chief James T. Smith plans for his police officers to have a larger presence in the upcoming year and sees intelligent and vibrant youth as the spark to make a difference.
Although not a native Lawtonian, Chief Smith said he is slowly accepting the city as his new home. After living in Lawton for months, he said he is now ready to place his roots.

“I’ve been here for ten months. I still refer to Kentucky as my home. I am slowly realizing that this is my home and putting my roots down here,” he said.

Chief Smith said he was thrilled to see his community welcome him with open arms. He hopes to help the city that has allowed his family to comfortably settle in.

“One of the things that we found that has been very enlightening is how well the community has accepted and opened their arms and been very welcoming to me and my family.”

Since he has taken his new position, Chief Smith said he sees a large amount of potential in Lawton.

His new home supports many museums, nice restaurants, and new business areas. However, like other cities, there are some areas in Lawton which citizens should avoid.

“I see Lawton as a city with a lot of potential. Of course, every city has issues. Every city has places that need some improvement. I always like to make reference to Chicago. It has a lot of museums and places to go and things to see; nice restaurants, nice shopping, but there are some places you should not go in Chicago. It is the same way in other cities. It is the same here.”

Chief Smith sees the present and future Lawton as a safe haven. While the city has potential, he said it cannot grow without the help of others. He calls city leaders and officials to the cause.

“Lawton is a safe city,” he said.“If you are looking around, there is business growth on 2nd street. There is business growth on 82nd street. There is a lot of potential and what we have to do as city leaders and officials, we have to find a way to channel the enthusiasm and growth.”

To continue this growth and ensure the future safety of this city, Chief Smith places emphasis on the youth. He believes young, intelligent minds can and will make all the difference.

“One thing we have to do in order for us to grow is to keep young talent here. When they decide to really settle down and start a family, we want them to stay here. Keep your young, strong, vibrant minds here, in Lawton. This is how we are going to grow.”

Chief Smith’s words have rang true in the past few months. In the spring, the head of the police department allowed the Lawton Police Department Gang Unit to work with Cameron University students to create an updated database. This new database will allow members to track known gang members and their associates to provide a safer Lawton.

“It is going to help them [the Lawton Gang Unit] track down or track known gang members. It is going to help them share information with other units in our department and other agencies. Once again, it is a tool to help us do our job. But nothing takes place of just good ole’ police work,” Chief Smith said. “With a tool like the database, it is going to be a good tool to help us track and investigate gang members in the city.”

As crime no longer occurs in just a community, Chief Smith said he knows that future generations will be able to combat new technological issues and crimes on the rise.

“We live in a global society. What happens over in China affects us here and vice-versa. We have got to be educating our kids to compete on a global market,” he said. “Our crime is just not local anymore. People can sit behind a computer and steal all of my money.”

Along with the youth’s educated minds and innovated insights, Chief Smith believes his talented staff will be able to alter Lawton’s current status of crime. He takes pride in his crew for their dedication in solving the past homicides.

“So far this year, we have had 11 homicides. That number is not acceptable to us. But out of those 11 homicides, eight of them are solved,” he said.“That is over an 80 percent solvability rate. Nationwide, the solvability on homicides is somewhere around 55 percent. I am not saying that any homicide is not a tragic event, but our solvability rate is very high. I think this is something the public wants and something that the public would demand.”

To continue this success in the future, Chief Smith said he plans on having his police department become more involved in Lawton’s community. Whether fighting crime or offering a friendly smile, he wants citizens to know that they will always be there.

“We are going to be out in the community,” he said. “We are going to be aggressive in fighting crime. Our patrol officers are going to be very visible and aggressive in eradicating crime. Our detectives are going to be working diligently to solve crimes.”

Overall, the new chief of police thinks changing the city of Lawton will require more effort than just from his staff and new generations. Everyone must become involved in creating a safer city.

“The future of the city is going to take some hard work and some forward thinking,” he said.“We need young, strong individuals to stay here, to get involved in the process, getting involved in our government, getting involved in the community. Their ideas are going to help us grow.”