Little kids joining gangs is not just happening in the big cities. Police told News 9 kids in the suburbs and small towns of Oklahoma are being lured into the criminal world, sometimes right at school.
Gangs are not just targeting kids on the streets of LA and New York anymore. They are infiltrating places like Edmond, Warr Acres, and even small communities like The Village. They are using social media sites and YouTube to do it, and that's putting Oklahoma kids at risk, no matter where they are.
Oklahoma City gang members use YouTube to flash their gang signs, flash their colors, and rap about their life as a gangster.
Eddie Thomas Brown, known as COPO, is a known gang member from Chicago. He was wanted for a recent shooting in Bethany. He was just arrested in Arizona. And at 19, is already a major player in the gang world.
Brown's buddy is known as C-4, aka Christopher Sadler, a known gang member with the city criminals, one of many Oklahoma City gangs well known to metro police officers. He is also in custody for the same shooting.
Many gang members are now recruiting young kids to the volatile world of gangs using the vast unfiltered world of the World Wide Web to get their message across.
Inspector Tim Hock with the Oklahoma City Gang Unit says he sees gangs recruiting younger and younger members.
"You start out as a little G, a Pee Wee, a baby gangster, whatever you want to call it. And these guys can start out at usually around eight years old," Hock said.
That's right, 2nd graders being groomed to be gangsters.
"They're holding drugs and guns for the gang members, they are acting as look outs so things like that at these younger stages," Hock said.
Once they are teenagers, these baby gangsters are then initiated into full fledged gang members.
"They are fighting 3, 4, 5 older gang members to prove their heart and their loyalty, their toughness to the set," Hock said.
Gangs are not just hitting the streets of the internet to attract new members. They are in the schools, too.
John Gray with the Oklahoma Gang Association Board says gangs are everywhere.
"It's Warr Acres, it's Bethany, the Village, Edmond," said Gray. "It's just not a big city problem, it's a statewide problem that we have."
It's a problem officers say will keep growing, unless more people and parents get involved in gang prevention and awareness. And one way to start is to see what your child is watching and downloading on YouTube and other social medial sites.
Gang prevention officers told News 9 many kids join gangs not just for power and respect, but for a sense of belonging or to be part of a family. Some have been raised in gangs their whole life and just know of no other way.
4/30/2012 Related Story: OKC Police's Mentoring Program Helps Keep School Children Away From Gangs