“There was no good way to approach her, as the darkness had intensified outside of the range of the dimly lit intersection and to worsen the initial encounter, I was a man in a black coat approaching her after she had just been through an unpleasant domestic violence dispute. You could not see more than a few yards in front of you. So, I carefully engaged her by gently stating, Ma’am, are you okay.”-Anthony Tucker
It was roughly 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2015 as I approached the intersection of U.S. Highway 60 (Locally known as Nowata Road) and Madison Boulevard in Bartlesville, Okla. I was traveling home to Dewey, Okla. from a day’s work at my business in Pryor, Okla. Like most winter evenings, it was dark by the time I had arrived upon the intersection and to be honest, the red light that awaited me was unwelcoming. However, it would only be a few moments into the impermanent red light, that would make what happens during this transient phase, permanent and lead me to a broader concern, our safety and the proper use of technology.
To describe the intersection during evening hours is important. It is a dimly lit four-way stop intersection, with traffic lights for both east/west and north/south bound traffic. It has residential properties on two out of the four corners, with a gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection. Besides the faint street lights, the gas station’s fueling station lights provide most of the illumination for the intersection.
Aside from the lighting environment, there was what seemed to be a traffic camera attached to the traffic light poles. While assumption also led me to think that the gas station on the northwest corner, had some type of a private surveillance camera pointed towards their fueling pumps and indirectly, towards the intersection itself. Thus, providing two means of capturing surveillance of the highly trafficked area.
That moment where this impermanent red light traffic stop became indestructible from my memory, was with the slam of the car door in front of me. I was the second car in the far right lane, heading westbound on U.S. Highway 60. The car in front of me was a newer model Jeep Liberty, with navy exterior paint. It was a young woman, 25-30 years old, who had jumped out of the car distraught and visibly in physical pain. She began rapidly walking northbound on Madison Boulevard into the complete darkness of a mostly residential portion of that city street. The now infamous intersection’s red light finally turned green, my heart rate is rapid and my mind begins racing in thought.
Do I continue heading west or do I turn north to check on the woman? What would I want someone to do if this was one of my three younger sisters? Can I really forget what just unfolded in front of me and not feel obligated to help?
I watched as the car for which the woman had so hastily departed from, continued heading northbound. While my conscious lead me astray from my normal route home, as I turned right, northbound on Madison Boulevard in search of the woman. I spotted the woman walking with her overcoat pulled up over her face, with her body’s demeanor giving off the look of someone who was weeping in tears. Besides the fact she had been in what seemed to be a domestic altercation, it was a blistering cold Oklahoma winter evening. I had to stop and ask the woman if she needed any assistance. That is just the Oklahoma thing to do. So, I went further north on Madison Boulevard and made a u-turn.
As I searched for somewhere to park I noticed the woman being confronted by the same vehicle that she had so hastily departed from. This was a short deliberation, as the woman remained on foot and the driver, whom of which I never got a good look at, sped off in rage. To exacerbate the situation there was nowhere to park, so I had to park my vehicle within a private driveway of a residence with a driveway that had direct access to the road. I put my cell phone in my hand ready to dial emergency services if needed and jogged ten yards north to approach the woman.
There was no good way to approach her, as the darkness had intensified outside of the range of the dimly lit intersection and to worsen the initial encounter, I was a man in a black coat approaching her after she had just been through an unpleasant domestic violence dispute. You could not see more than a few yards in front of you. So, I carefully engaged her by gently stating, “Ma’am, are you okay. My name is Anthony and I saw what happened at the intersection.” She initially jumped in fear, but gradually turned her face towards mine and began to communicate with me.
I couldn’t make her face out, as she stood more than a few yards away from me, but she was weeping and had her hands around her mouth. She stated that she was going to walk to a nearby friend’s residence, but I reiterated that I wanted to make sure that she was okay. She asked if her lips were “busted” and if she was bleeding. Now having earned her trust, she removed her hands from her mouth and I could see blood. I began to dial 911, but she begged me not to “call anyone.” I was torn. She promised me that her friend’s was nearby and that she didn’t want any medical or law enforcement assistance. I ran back to my parked car.
Within moments I broke the line of trust with the woman and I called 911. I was patched through to the Washington County 911 dispatcher. I told her my name, my recollection of the incident and my last known whereabouts of the injured woman. It was during my description of the intersection where which the incident began, that I told the dispatcher that there seemed to be a traffic camera that would have captured the incident and the license plate of the vehicle in question. But it was at this moment that the dispatcher informed me that the assumed to be traffic camera was only a traffic sensor. I immediate thought, “are you serious.” It is the year 2015, the gilded age of communication technology and we don’t have traffic cameras at major intersections in Oklahoma.
As the 911 dispatcher put me on hold to dispatch officers to the scene, my worry for this abused woman quickly turned into disgust and disappointment. I wanted swift justice to be served, but unless the woman was found and chose to cooperate with authorities, the images that were scared into my memory, would go unseen and untold.
I am not advocating for state politicians to enact legislation that enables the right to or provides access to funding for communities to place surveillance cameras on every street corner throughout Oklahoma, but I am advocating that our idolized, American democracy is setup for each state to take care of the well-being of its citizens. Thus, I believe that law enforcement surveillance cameras at major intersections are a must in today’s society and to not do so, would make the state negligent in protecting its citizens’ well-being.
With the technological advantages that we are privileged with today, these law enforcement surveillance cameras could connect with a central command center. Allowing the 911 dispatcher to accurately depict the scene to the inroute officers and medical responders. Furthermore, our Gilded Age of technology would enable the recorded footage of the scene of the incident to be used as evidence in any potential civil or criminal suit brought upon the perpetrator.
We’ve read about the major American cities, such as Chicago and New York, who have embraced intrinsic law enforcement surveillance camera systems due to their high levels of crime and post 9/11 fears, perpetually a potential terrorist threat. But, the system we need is not as invasive or financially burdening. Technological advances make this proposed law enforcement surveillance system financially feasible. As the taxpayers, who are the sole benefactor of all things our state and federal government purchases, would benefit immensely by the added safety and security the major intersection surveillance would provide them. In addition, the system would not only serve its intended purpose, but it would also indirectly serve as a crime deterrent.
For as a young boy in Oklahoma, I wept alongside my fellow Oklahomans on April 19, 1995 as the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. was destroyed by the careless acts of two domestic terrorists. In the hunt for justice for those who lost their lives and who lost their loved ones, it was the Regency Towers Apartments’ lobby security cameras that would catch the infamous Ryder rental truck three days prior to the tragedy and just moments before its destructive fate. Thus, it was those surveillance cameras that played a crucial part in helping law enforcement with their successful investigation to capture and punish those responsible for those acts.
Now with this firsthand experience with domestic abuse carved into my memory, I urge our state, Oklahoma, to take a stand on ensuring its citizens’ well-being and leverage technological advances, non-invasively, to grant swift, deserved justice.