Comanche County_The crime rate on Native American land is on the rise - at least that's the perception. The problem might actually be that many of those crimes go unreported or aren't ever investigated. After the release of a study conducted by Amnesty International, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced a new hotline it's created that will make sure crimes don't go unnoticed.
Comanche Tribal Law Enforcement has actually had a hotline that's been helping for some time. Since they started it in 2002 they've seen a dramatic difference in people reporting crimes. The past few years, Wilbur Pewo who lives on Indian land has noticed a difference. When people have a problem on land within Comanche Tribe Jurisdiction, there hasn't been as much confusion.
"In case something happens, the calls will come straight here instead of you going someplace else," said Pewo. Many times, when a call comes in from Indian Territory, each agency goes back and forth wondering who's supposed to handle the call. By then, precious time may have gone by. "Each entity would protect its own," says Comanche Nation Detective Vern Griffin.
Griffin believes the improvements in crime prevention and reporting is because of the fairly new dispatch center. "We don't have to go through the sheriff's department with that call, it just transfers us over," he says. Now, they directly talk to their own law enforcement."
The FBI found that many people believed crimes went unreported or were not investigated at all on Indian or Trust Land. But, the Comanche feel they are ahead of the game by getting their own dispatch center. Since it started in 2002, the incidents and crimes reported have almost doubled. Griffin says part of the reason they've seen an increase in crime is because of the large gaming industry presence. The rest are the normal incidents that might be reported on a daily basis.
"I think it would be better, a lot quicker, and easier, in case something should happen out here," says Alyssa Gonzales, a tribal member. She thinks the hotline seems like a good idea. And, what Griffin says people need to under stand is that this new FBI hotline, along with the Comanche Nation's existing line, will help everyone - not just the Native American population. There are plenty of non-Native Americans living on or visiting tribal land, casinos or other places of business.
"I welcome the new number, it's a new access. That way crimes don't fall through the block," says Griffin. Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley says he likes the new hotline, too. He says many times there's confusion about which law enforcement agency needs to handle a situation. He says this will definitely be a direct channel to the right law enforcement agency.
So, how do you know if you're on Indian land? Most land is marked "Indian Land", "Trust Land" or "Property of the U.S. Government" and the signs are usually posted along a fence line. Once you have identified whether or not you are on Indian land, that's how you determine who to call.