TPD: Organized Gang Unit visible and alert
TULSA (FOX 23) - Tulsa’s gangs have made their presence in prior violent crimes. Long before the Best Buy shooting that killed an innocent man.
“We can’t just take flash points instances and suddenly become concerned this is happening every day in Tulsa, someone is being shot at,” said Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan.
The Tulsa Police Deaprtment's Organized Gang Unit (OGU) has been hard at work, tracking gang members across the city.
Since 2008, TPD’s OGU unit has recovered 644 guns.
There is no exact number of gang members in Tulsa.
"Guys go to prison, gets out of prison, people die,” said OGU Corporal Joel Ward.
There is no official gang map in Tulsa.
"There really is not an area that we check off as saying there are no gangs here,” said Ward.
What matters is how they commit their crimes and they can recruit kids as young as age 12.
"Whether that is a big homie handing them guns; 'We are going to drive this house and you are going to shoot it up. Or ;you see this guy, you shoot him on site,;” said TPD OGU officer Chase Calhoun.
Burglaries, robberies and car theft all put money back into the gangs.
"We go out and find gang members and make contact with them and if we catch them in a crime we arrest them,” said Ward.
Gang members have a code of silence. However, to avoid prison they’ll talk.
"They do intimidate witness and they make threats of violence against witnesses but most of the time the best information we get comes from the gang members themselves,” said Ward. “They like to think they don't talk but almost everybody talks at some point in their criminal career.”
Gang unit officers have to listen and stay visible and alert.
Their feuds may last decades but their allegiance may not.
"Gangs don't have a long memory because gang members don't have a long life," said Ward. "If they are active in their teens, they will be killed or they go to prison before they are 25 years old."
These officers said their job is to investigate every part of town.
"You are never going to see them lined up on 11th street here that's not the way the network functions. It's dispersed and they come together at the right time to commit the crime or the work and then they dissolve back into the city,” said Ward.
Tulsa is one of the 31 cities who is part of the Department of Justice Violent Crimes Impact Team that started in 2004. It's a federal initiative that brings Alcohol Tobacco Firearms agents, other federal and local law enforcement together to target violent criminals involving firearms.
Other cities such as Atlanta, Memphis, LA and Baltimore are also part of this initiative. These are cities that have an in flux of violent crimes involving firearms per capita.
Chief Chuck Jordan announced earlier today there would be a gang sweep in the coming weeks. It will be a sweep similar to the US Marshal’s Operation Triple Beam. It's a federal initiative that started in Tulsa involving local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
In the most recent Operation Triple Beam, June, 2011, shootings dropped by 50%. The chief said this gang sweep will be more long term.