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New police chief sits down for first 1-on-1 interview

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LAWTON, Okla_Lawton's new police chief, James Smith, has no choice but to hit the ground running.

As we reported Monday, for the first time in three decades Lawton has experienced double-digit homicides for two straight years. Smith has only been on the job for less than 30 days. Now, as Lawton's top law enforcement officer, he's asking for your help.

Chief Smith has the experience, 30 years in law enforcement, the last 27 with the Louisville Police Department, the first three with the Kentucky State Police as well as 30 years in the Army reserves. He said the Lawton Police Department can't do it all by themselves, what they really need is 100,000 eyes and ears.

"Your neighbor knows what time you go to work, he knows where you work, probably knows when you go on vacation so if something is out of the ordinary, and he knows you're not home, just pick up the phone."

Smith said lowering the crime rate in Lawton is possible, but the department needs community wide support, citizens, business leaders, schools and churches all working together. He's already begun the process of getting involved and asking for help.

"On Sundays I'm going around visiting different churches, just to let them know that I'm here in the community and I want to be a part of this community."

While Chief Smith's goal is to lower the crime rate in Lawton, his 30 years of experience has taught him that when it comes to crime, it's personal.

"I can show you all the charts and graphs about crime issues and statistics and everything like that and show you how crime is going up and down, but if somebody breaks into your house, and steals your TV, there is a crime wave going on in your neighborhood."

He said his department will be quick to respond when action needs to be taken.

"Those areas where there has been some activity you know people will say it's a huge problem and if there is an issue we're going to address it."

Chief Smith wants to make changes but he's been around enough to know that those changes will not impact crime overnight.

"Every problem that you face, you know it didn't get there overnight. I'm not going to be able to walk in you know I don't have a magic pill that I can take and just walk in on day one and just change everything around, so it's going to take time."

Over and over again during our conversation Chief Smith said he will be involved in the community and he wants the community to be involved in making Lawton a safer place to live.

"If you see something, say something. If you see something out of the ordinary, if you see something that you don't think is right just pick up the phone and give us a call. We'll come and check it out. "

With a population of 100,000 in Lawton and a police force of nearly two hundred men and women the new police chief has his hands full, but don't think for a minute that he is overwhelmed. He is disciplined, the Army reserves and law enforcement for three decades has something to do with that, and he still runs marathons, a few times a year.

Turning Lawton's crime rate around will be a marathon, not a sprint.

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