TULSA, Okla. — Gangs are common in large cities and Tulsa is no exception.
2 News Oklahoma met Dwayne Jackson, who goes by "DJ" near 61st Street and Peoria. He agreed to talk to 2 News Oklahoma about life in a Tulsa gang and said he got involved at a very young age.
“With families being poor and not having a father around, you know what I’m saying, we call them obstacles or just the things that we go through, being poor in other communities and having drugs, getting put in our communities," Jackson said. "There is a lot of starving families around here and there are a lot of projects, welfare, food stamps, you know what I mean."
Jackson said being in a gang gives him the power and confidence to take on oppression. “The purpose of my gang is economic rebirth to bring people, our people, closer together and to stop police brutality."
The lack of resources, children with absent fathers, hungry families and welfare are a few of the reasons Jackson said people may join a gang.
"Below the surface, that’s how we were always looked at. I don’t feel like that, but that’s how we’re made to feel…below the surface, like a rose growing out of the concrete," Jackson said.
To get a handle on gangs and gang violence, Tulsa police say they have dedicated multiple units within the department. The Strategic Intervention Unit, formerly the "Gang Unit," is responsible for investigating gang-related crime. They try to be proactive by patrolling in areas of Tulsa with the most gang-related violence.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Rusty Brown heads up the Strategic Intervention Unit, "On Jan. 2, which was a Sunday evening, about 5 or 6 o’clock, we got numerous calls from citizens at 61st and Peoria and there were at least 50-to-100 rounds of shots fired in that area all along one street," Brown said. "There were cars that were hit to a couple of houses with kids and two adults in those houses at the time, thankfully none of them were hit... Most of the time, it’s going to be the disrespecting of one gang or if they see each other on the street or if anyone says any words that seem disrespectful.”
He said a lot of times gangs don't hit their intended target, but instead people who are caught in the middle.
"These days, kids and adults immediately resort to pulling out a gun and firing," Brown says.
Tulsa police said the city's largest gangs are:
There are also white supremacist gangs:
Universal Aryan Brotherhood
“Gangs are here to make money and to stay in power and so they are going to rob other gangs and try and steal their firearms, their money, their dope to further their empire," Brown said.
"There is power within my people, and we have to stick together," Jackson said.
Tulsa police say the gangs in Tulsa predominantly commit property crimes, as well as fraud and forgery. While officers say they use programs like Midnight Basketball and Shop with a Cop to build relationships and steer kids in a positive direction, Jackson has a very different perspective.
"It's never about helping our building or bringing it back," he said. "I mean, it's only crash, lock em up, kill em if we can kill em."
As police work to curtail gang violence in Tulsa, Jackson said he'll continue to survive in whatever way necessary.
“We lack resources but once we gain power and we gain resources there will definitely be an economic rebirth of the people, below the earth."
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