Lawton Once Again ‘Most Dangerous’ Metro City In Oklahoma
Over the last two years, we've all watched the crime rates in Lawton sharply rise. The city council, mayor's office, and police department brass have done what they can to suppress news of this growing violent trend, but statistics rarely lie. Old Lawton is pushing back into existence.
Historically, Lawton's always been a pretty rough town. Most military towns are. My family has always traveled through Lawton to go to grandma's house, and every time we'd sweep down Rogers Lane, dad would tell us stories about why we should never go into Lawton.
Lawton was notorious in the 70s and 80s, but things took a turn in the 1990s, and crime rates went down. In fact, violent crime and murder took a plunge across the nation in the 90s.
As mayors and politicians all across the country took credit for the cuts in crime rates, experts attributed the trend to federally backed new policing strategies, expanding police departments, and a justice system that willingly handed out harsh prison sentences.
While each individual year ebbed and flowed in crime rates, by 2017 Lawton was actually listed as one of the safest cities in the United States. It was something we could all take pride in I suppose, but it wouldn't last long.
As much progress that had been made in the 21st century, nothing lasts forever. 2019 was the deadliest year on record for Lawton in decades. 17 murders in one year in a town of 90,000 people. That's a crazy statistic, but murder became the new Lawton trend.
2020 threw a curveball to the entire world. Fear-driven lockdowns, thousands of people out of work mixed with nothing to do socially made for another record deadly year in Lawton's history. 22 murders inside Lawton city limits.
If you've lived here since then, I'm sure you can remember the public cry to city leaders, the council and mayor's office, to address the growing problem. Policing wasn't working anymore because the LPD had shrunk to the 1970s levels. Even as the city made extravagant purchases of a dilapidated mall and new police and fire stations, there was no money left over from the politicians legacy-building to offer law enforcement to retain officers.
It came to a fever pitch in 2021 when our elected officials finally found a budget to do just that. Naturally, murders came down slightly, recording only 17 that year.
Here we are in 2022, five years after being named one of America's safest cities, once again listed as the most dangerous metro area city in the state, and 46th most dangerous in the nation.
Does that make Lawton a bad town? No. Poor leadership, sure, but it's not a bad town. It's still a rough military town, but that is just a tradition it seems each generation will likely carry on ebbing and flowing forever.