Gang Crimes Spike In Oklahoma City

Thursday, November 17th 2011, 10:15 pm
By: News 9

There has been a spike in gang-related crime this year. New numbers from Oklahoma City police show those crimes increasing after last year's decade low.

The crimes we're talking about are drive-by shootings. Any one of us could be caught in the crossfire. Over the past five years, drive-bys decreased until 2011. This all comes as police say the number of gang members in Oklahoma City is increasing.

"I'm just a neighborhood soldier, you know what I'm saying?" asked Malachi Israel, Northeast Oklahoma City resident. "I got [my neighbors'] mother f---ing back, man."

Israel says he's lived near the intersection of Martin Luther King and Northeast 26th for 27 years. He also says he will always protect his neighborhood.

"They call it the hood, so I guess it is," said one of Israel's neighbors who goes by the name Victoria. "You hear gunshots almost every night."

Victoria is familiar with gang life. She says her brother went to jail for being in a gang.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty estimates there are up to 4,000 gang members in the city. He says, overall, the numbers have stayed fairly constant. But those numbers have gone up a bit. Some of the most telling statistics are drive-by shootings.

"Most of our drive-bys are involving gang members," said Citty.

This year, the months of January and May saw the most drive-bys in Oklahoma City.

"We saw a huge spike in drive-by shootings," said Citty, referring to those months.

In 2005, Oklahoma City saw the most drive-bys in a decade with 260. In 2006, the year of the Crossroads Mall gang shootout, Oklahoma City dropped to 245 drive-by shootings. Last year, the city hit a decade-low of 97 incidents. So far this year, there have been 117 drive-bys. There are still two months left to add to the stats for 2011.

Those numbers hit home for northeast side resident Tatiana, who would not share her last name. Tatiana says she almost died in a drive-by.

"They shot at my house when my baby was in the house," she said.

For Tatiana, it was that close call that made her happy to be living the straight and narrow.

"When I was younger I [wanted] to be in a gang because I was young and stupid, but when you get older, you get wiser," she said.

Chief Citty says the number one problem with fighting gang violence is easy access to guns. Police say they are also seeing gang members using assault rifles more.

To track crime in your neighborhood, visit News 9's Crimetracker.