Educating Tulsa's Early Child Care Workers About Street Gangs
TULSA, Oklahoma - The gangs working in Tulsa recruit early and increasingly are involved in child trafficking and that's leading to more training for people who work with children.
County officials are working hard to stop gang influence.
Richard Harris with the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau has years of experience dealing with people on probation.
At workshop on Thursday, his audience is almost entirely people who work with young children.
That's because they're now moving to the front lines of gang prevention.
"The recognition is we're never going to arrest our way out of a gang problem," said Richard Harris.
Harris teaches this class to police officers too, but now believes more effort should go to keeping kids out of gangs to begin with.
That's where the early childhood workers come in.
"And if we can get them trained in identification and suppression methods, they can try to redirect before gang association becomes a significant risk factor for those kids," said Richard Harris.
Harris said gangs recruit by offering respect, a reputation, maybe even a chance at revenge. They can offer access to drugs, sex and money.
He says intervention at an early age works best.
The training is a project of the Community Service Council, which years ago was working to mobilize services for AIDS patients. Now, it's gangs and human trafficking.
"It's something with a lot of stigma attached to it. We don't have a lot of numbers but we know it's growing. And it's difficult and deadly for our community and they aren't a lot of service providers ready to provide this service in the community," said Jan Figert with the Community Service Council.
But that's changing with these newly trained people getting into the fight.