Police officers and deputies in Green Country learned about gangs Friday. One thing they learned is gangs are no longer just a big city issue.
We've all driven by a fence or a bridge and seen stuff like this, gang's tagging territory.
Detectives say speaking the language helps in cracking down on gangs and violence.
The hand signals, the graffiti, the clothing and the slang, that's what law enforcement use to identify some of the state's most active criminals.
“So we want to get ahead of that, we want to know who they are, we want to have them identified,” said Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association President, Tim Hock.
Hock has been a gang unit detective in Oklahoma City for close to 30 years. He's seen more than his share of crime in that time, and he's watched gang activity grow.
“It seems like every three you lock up, five more pop up,” he said.
Hock said statistics show gang violence has jumped 40 percent in the U.S. since 2009.
He said it's no longer just a big city problem.
“Some of them like to be out in the more rural areas in smaller towns because there's not as much law enforcement there,” Hock said.
The Gang 101 Course brought in law enforcement from larger cities and small towns, like Chief Larry Ruiz and officers from Webbers Falls.
“We run into a lot of gang activity. We work a lot off the Interstate 40 and a lot of our arrests come off the Interstate,” Ruiz said.
Social media has been a game changer in tracking down criminals. Detectives say gang members like to glorify what they do, while incriminating themselves at the same time.
“They like to post pictures of themselves holding guns and throwing hand signs and they do a certain type of tagging, writing on there and things like that show us who they may be at war with, who they're rivals with, who they have love for, so it helps. Thank goodness they're not very smart,” Hock said.
While gangs aren't going away anytime soon, Hock said intervention, prevention and suppression doesn't hurt.
Detectives say there's no clear reason as to why gang activity is on the rise.
They say kids are still joining for the same reasons they always have, they were raised in that environment or they want to feel a sense of belonging.