Gang violence increasing in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, funding not
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ More funds are needed to counter a resurgence in gang violence in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, lawmakers were told Monday.
Richard DeLaughter, director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, said groups that work with gang members and their families lost funding because of recent cuts in the OJA's budget.
DeLaughter said his agency is trying to develop better statistics to gauge the success youth agencies have had in countering gang activity.
Wayne Thompson, director of youth programs in Oklahoma County, cited several examples of former gang members who have become productive citizens after intervention by his agency.
Thompson said more funds are needed to prevent children from joining gangs, whom he said are taking violence to a new level by ``starting now to target parents.''
He said youth agencies that work with gang members get only $1.1 million statewide and serve more than 100,000, counting family members.
He said the money is distributed roughly based on population to programs in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton and Muskogee.
``Fund these programs, if you will. If you don't, we're all going to pay the price,'' he said.
Rep. Kevin Cox, D-Oklahoma City, gang activity is found in most every area of Oklahoma City, and involves white gangs, black gangs, Hispanic gangs and Asian gangs.
He said every hardcore gang member cannot be helped, but intervention programs that deter children from a life of crime are economically sound.
State prison inmates are becoming younger and younger and it is costly to incarcerate them.
``We need to put this money where the rubber meets the road,'' Cox said.