Tulsa’s gang problem spilled over into a public park this weekend bringing new attention to a growing problem.
It happened Sunday near 36th street North and Lewis after police got a tip about a gang fight that could be happening at Mohawk Park. Officers used stop sticks to blow out the car’s tires and arrested several high school students.
Right now, Tulsa Public Schools is using a program called GREAT, Gang Resistance Education Training. It teaches students to use life skills to help them avoid using bad behavior and violence to solve their problems.
Pastor Lawrence Peoples is no stranger to violence. He joined a gang at the tender age of 13. A long scar on his face is a constant reminder of the pain he felt as a child.
"They came up behind me and cut me with a doctor's scalpel. I had over 75 stitches and you could see all the way inside my mouth,” says Peoples.
He says the attraction to join a gang started with greed.
"I would see guys with a lot of money and a lot of girls, and you would get a lot of attention with a lot of girls,” says Peoples.
Years later, he was able to transition safely out of gang life. He now uses his time to mentor elementary students and former gang members. He also heads up a local ministry.
"I was blown away at the age of some of these young kids in the second and third grade that could tell me what different gang sets are out there now and showing me different gang signs,” he says.
TPS is currently working to curb gang violence by putting young students through the GREAT program. Research shows certain gang members will often live in a certain area of town.
"You're going to see more of the east side schools reflecting more of the gangs associated with the Hispanic culture,” says TPS Campus Police Chief, Gary Rudick.
Along with teaching students about gangs, TPS also does presentations for faculty and staff to help them identify gang behavior.
We did some checking with the Tulsa Police Department’s Gang Task Force. This year, the gang unit has been assigned to 80 cases to follow up on. This does not include cases from other departments or the cases the gang unit pursues on its own.
Here are some ways you can identify possible gang behavior in your child:
- Grades that start to drop
- Low attendance in school
- Drawing or doodling gang signs on paper that show affection for gang culture
- Listening to violent music
If you or someone you know is struggling with being in a gang, you can contact Lawrence Peoples Ministries. That number is 918-277-4805 Or visit www.lawrencepeoplesministries.org