The Salvation Amry is hoping to help some young Tulsans avoid a life of violence

Monday, November 29th 2004, 10:06 am
By: News On 6

The Salvation Army is ganging up with the US Department of Justice to stop gangs in Tulsa.

Tulsa has 3,300 gang members right now, with an estimated 200 new kids recruited every year. As News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains, Tulsa now has $60,000 to protect younger children from a gang lifestyle.

A little girl is learning how to throw a Hoova gang sign, another girl is learning to handle guns. A little boy knows how to hold a gun after being shot in a gang drive-by. Another boy throws a gang sign and could be on his way to a life of drugs and crime.

Phil Burns with the Gang Advisory Council: "In our file, we have photographs of two, three, four and five year olds in gang colors, throwing gang signs. It's shocking to see them held by uncles and brothers showing whatever gang sign you want."

That's what makes this check so important. The US Department of Justice is giving $60,000 to two Boys and Girls' Clubs in Tulsa to target 100 children still in elementary school who might be headed for gang life.

Tulsa Police Chief Dave Been: "We have really shut down a lot of gang related activities and shootings, not enough, but, this will help us steer these children into something other than a brotherhood of gangs that never leads to anything productive."

These numbers are partly why Tulsa was chosen. 3,300 gang members, most, young African Americans, plus 32 Asian, 166 Independent, 22 Indian and more than 300 Hispanic gang members. Those members are divided into 385 sets, 135 sets are Crips, more than 30 are Bloods and the rest are split among individual neighborhoods.

The idea is that sports, school tutoring and group activities will fill a need in these kids' lives so they don't feel a need to join a gang. Keeping kids out of gangs means keeping them alive, out of prison and less likely to raise future gang members.

One of the reason gangs recruit younger kids is because if they're caught committing a crime, the kids go through the juvenile system which isn't as severe as adult prison time.