By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With a string of separate shootings in July, investigators believe some of those incidents could be gang related.
Israel Mireles is a pastor who's very involved in gang intervention. He said this is an issue many people avoid talking about.
Mireles said the members who claim they're part of a gang are as young as 7-years-old and elementary school age kids.
"We've got 15, 16-year-old kids put away for murder. They're kids. Their youth has been stolen from them. How are we going to get it back? We're never going to get that back," Mireles said.
He adds one in five drive-by shootings are gang related and it's an issue people turn away from.
It's a reality Pastor Israel Mireles knows all too well. He was a former gang member who paid his dues in jail and now he's helping to fight what he said is one of the biggest issues, gang violence.
Mireles said his group mentors kids in anti-gang and anti-drug programs.
"What happens in the streets, drugs, tensions, they want to belong to something, so they're part of a gang and they're fighting. What we need to do is to be able to provide placement for them," Mireles said.
Israel Mireles is part of a group called Effective Transition Corportation that mentors kids about gang intervention.
"That's every kid's dream. They want to be noticed for something, so most of them do things without thinking what's going to happen," the pastor said. "Do we have a gang issue? Yes we do. Are we addressing it aggressively? Yes we are."
District Attorney David Prater said they're fighting the gang problem head on with programs involving both law enforcement and the community it polices.
"I'll tell you, during the hot months we do see a spike in violent crime. A lot of times it's gang related, a lot of times it isn't," Prater said.
Police belive we are seeing more violence lately because school is out. There are more social gatherings, which could lead to more trouble.
Time and care is what both of these leaders said could help deter the violence.
"It takes a community to raise a child and understand that this child may not be their own flesh and blood, but it is their own," Prater said.
"What are these kids going to do? They're out there in the danger, we got to go out there and pick them up, help them," Mireles said.
Prater said last year his office saw a 46 percent decrease in drive-by shootings in the metro area.