by: Ashli Lincoln Updated:
TULSA, Okla. - Quick Facts:
- Record number of homicides in Tulsa in 2016
- Tulsa County District Attorney’s office told FOX23 a lot of those homicides and other violent crime involved a person involved with a gang.
- FOX23’s Ashli Lincoln talked to the DA’s office about how they’re working to keep gang members behind bars
- WATCH her full story Friday on FOX23 News at 5:45
The city of Tulsa saw a violent year in 2016 with record-breaking homicides, armed robberies and assaults.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office told FOX23 most of those crimes involved a person who was affiliated with a gang.
FOX23’s Ashli Lincoln talked to the gang unit with the District Attorney’s Office to see how this specialized unit is working to put more gang members behind bars and keep Tulsa streets safer.
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler restructured the gang division a couple of years ago to effectively prosecute more gang-related cases.
Since the restructuring the DA’s office told FOX23 it’s been able to get more gang members off the streets, but it recognizes there is still a gang problem in the county.
“But we try to be proactive now and less reactive,” Assistant District Attorney Isaac Shields said.
A specialized team at the Tulsa County’s DA office is cracking down.
Shields is leading a team of investigators and attorneys to eliminate the heads to major gang organizations in Tulsa County.
“Gang violence is a little bit different than other aspects of criminal activity in the community because anytime, you can see for a lack of a better term, a head to a snake,” Shields said.
Shields told FOX23 we saw that problem last year with record-breaking violent crime numbers.
“So as long they’re a criminal street gang members in Tulsa committing crimes there will always be a gang problem here in Tulsa until they’re all gone,” Shields said.
FOX23 went through state numbers and found since 2000 there have been more than 14,000 gang-related cases prosecuted by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
Shields said in the early ‘90s the gang problem in the city was more rampant.
Shields told FOX23 the number was on a steady incline until District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler created this specialized gang team.
Kunzweiler changed the way they approached prosecuting gang members so attorneys could spend more time focusing on cases.
“So we work in collaboration with the Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in order to identify these high-value targets,” Shields said.
Shields said it’s those boots on the ground from the Tulsa police gang unit that make it possible for him to prosecute and convict gang members.
Shields said their tactic is simple take out the leaders of Tulsa’s major gang and organized crime sectors.
Most recently they convicted the leader of Tulsa’s K2 ring, Allack Nazir. He’s serving 25 years in prison for pushing K2 throughout Tulsa.
“Once we were able to incarcerate him, in prosecuting him we saw an immediate reduction in the amount of K2 flowing through the streets of Tulsa,” he said.
Shields told FOX23 they’ve prosecuted several other individuals who have connections with national gangs’ affiliations.
“These are gangs that’s been around for quite some time,” Shields said.
Shields said many of the violent crimes from last year involved members of a gang.
“And their whole MO is to put a community in fear,” he said.
A side-by-side comparison shows 2016 was more violent compared to 2015.
“It’s a lot like street terrorism,” said NAME.
“This is an organization that their entire culture is taking what isn’t theirs,” he said.
Since the start of the gang unit Shields said they’ve been able to spend more time making sure cases with gang ties not only get prosecuted but convictions.
“So again these are not individuals who respond well to treatment; to probation. They need to be prosecuted they need to be held accountable for their actions,” said Shields.
In 2016 the gang unit prosecuted 788 cases. That’s up 42 cases compared to 2015.
The DA’s office told FOX23 it takes about a year from the beginning of prosecution to a conviction. The challenge with gang cases is in most cases it’s hard for victims to testify and the charges get dropped.l
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