Oklahoma City police are trying to keep kids off the streets and out of the gangs as they patrol the streets every day. But now police have a new weapon in the arsenal and they're targeting Oklahoma City school kids.
Oklahoma City police say they have seen kids as young as seven years old get caught up in gangs. Once they are in, it's hard to get them out. So now, they are approaching Oklahoma City kids not as cops, but as mentors.
It's afterschool at Heronville Elementary, but it is far from quiet inside.
Sgt. Tomas Daugherty is one of three Oklahoma City officers with the Police Athletic League, who is spending time with Oklahoma City students trying to make a difference in their lives.
"We've got programs after school, during school, on the weekends. We've got something all year round for all of our kids in the community," Sgt. Daugherty said.
Another way police are trying to make an impact is with the newly created FACT Program, where officers spend time with older kids, encouraging them to say no to gangs and yes to a brighter future.
"We offer a movie night like we have tonight, we have some arts councils, different arts that the kids can participate in throughout the week some tutoring sessions they can take part in throughout the week," said Sgt Wayland Cubit. "Most of the time these kids see us because of something negative. Here we're their mentors, we're their coaches, and we're their friends."
Both Sergeants say if it wasn't for programs like this, many of these kids would be sitting home alone or worse, out on the streets, making them vulnerable to gangs, drugs and a life of crime.
"I don't think it's that difficult to steer them away from gangs as long as we get to them before the gangs do," Sgt. Cubit said.
Sgt. Daugherty grew up in this neighborhood and knows how hard it is to say no to gangs at a young age.
"I see myself in a lot of these kids and a lot of the families that come through, and I tell myself if I can make this, they can do it," Daugherty said.
The officers told News 9 that if they can just save one kid or even one family from the horrors of gangs, then they consider that a big success.