Troubling signs: Juvenile probation official says gang activity increasing in county communities

By Carolyn Cole/Staff Writer

Gang activity is on the rise in the Mustang-Yukon area, a juvenile probation officer told Canadian County parents at a recent meeting.

About a dozen Mustang students, from elementary to high school age, are believed to be involved with the Gangster Pride Locos, Justin Smith, a juvenile probation officer at the Gary E. Miller Juvenile Justice Center, told parents last week at a safe schools meeting in El Reno.

“We’ve got a whole rank structure, everything, for the GPLs (Gangster Pride Locos) in Mustang, and it’s actually going into Yukon,” he said. “Yukon High School reported three people that are claiming to be part of the GPL. It’s supposed to be a branch of the South Side Locos.”

Local officials with the Mustang School District and Mustang Police Department said school resource officers have noticed some drawings in notebooks and have confiscated a few items from students, but they do not believe it constitutes an increase in gang activity or a problem.

“The few that we know about here in the city, they are self proclaimed,” Capt. Willard James said. “(We) don’t know of any unlawful or illegal activity that they are involved in.”

Smith told parents at the meeting he has a T-shirt confiscated in Canadian County with GPL written on it in old English-style letters. He added vandalism believed to be gang graffiti has littered areas along Czech Hall Road in the Mustang School District.

Bill McCormack, with Mustang’s Masons, said the civic organization’s members commonly paint over vandalism in the area. He said the most popular places for vandalism is behind the Silver Center Shopping Center and on the state Highway 4 bridge over the train tracks near SW 89th Street. He said he’s seen writing on metal utility boxes and on real estate signs.

McCormack said he isn’t certain if the vandalisms are gang graffiti, though he has seen the letters GPL painted under the bridge.
“In our opinion, it’s the wrong approach to let it stay there and let it have notoriety,” he said. “It just gives them a bigger reputation with their little gangsters. We try to paint over it as soon as we find out about it.”

In some cases, James said the vandalisms are tagging, or someone writing their name or identity onto someone else’s property.

“Gang graffiti is different, it denotes a gang and may send a message to another gang,” he said. “It’s what they use to mark their territory.”

MSD Superintendent Karl Springer said gangs have always been a concern for district officials, and all administrators have taken seminars on spotting gang-related symbols, clothing and behavior among students. The district had planned to train teachers Jan. 15, he said, but the session was canceled due to bad weather. He said another training session for teachers will be scheduled later in the school year.

“We have had some evidence of some gang activity, things like writing letters in a notebook, certain letters, and just a little bit of graffiti in the school district ... We’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve had to tell a kid they couldn’t wear a particular item because we felt it was gang related, but I can’t over emphasize that what we are trying to do is be preventive on it,” he said.
Regardless of how deeply entrenched a gang is in a community, Smith said local residents should be aware of what is happening in their neighborhoods, talk with their children and meet their children’s friends and their parents.

“It’s a trickle effect — southside Oklahoma City, rolls into Mustang, into Yukon and down to El Reno … If we don’t get our communities involved no one will know,” he said.

The meeting was held as part of a federal Safe Schools and Healthy Students grant received by the El Reno School District. Greg Meeks, El Reno school resource officer, told parents about seven gangs are active in the El Reno district — the Bloods, the Crips, the Neighborhood 90 Crips, South Side Locos, Grand Bario Centrale and Vatos Locos, in addition to activity related to fans of the Insane Clown Posse rap group. He estimated between eight and 10 El Reno students are involved with each gang. For a community El Reno’s size, he said the problem is huge.

“Some of the parents want their kids out of the gang, so they bring them here,” he said. “What happens most of the time (is) our kids end up glorifying the kids coming in and start learning off of them and then we have a problem.”

Other members grew up in their neighborhoods, Smith told parents, adding while working at a penitentiary, a gang boss told him he planned to return to his hometown of El Reno at the end of his sentence.

“Their dads were involved in it when they were going to school so it’s been generational,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger than what people think.”

Meeks said the bigger gang problems facing communities include auto thefts, burglaries and assaults, along with vandalism, property destruction and drug use. He said many teens are drawn into gangs because of the quick cash they can make selling drugs.

“All of the gangs are involved in some type of criminal activity,” he said. “You are getting your house broken into, your car broken into — I guarantee you if your car is getting broken into, it’s by gangs — stealing cars. They have a fascination with guns.”

To gang members, Meeks said, fear equals respect. In talking with teens he’s caught marking buildings or wearing gang colors to school, he said he tries to explain the difference to them.

“They want that fear, put that gun down my waistband and flash it at people,” he said. “Why? So they respect me — no, wrong, that’s not respect. They’re going about it the wrong way.”

The first step to protecting communities, Smith said, is for everyone to report signs of gang activity to police. He urged parents to go home, look in their children’s closets to see if they are predominately of particular colors. He said Gangster Pride Locos tend to wear oversized clothes — khaki pants with either a blue or gray shirt. Bloods predominately wear red; Crips and Grand Barrio Centrel wear blue. Parents should also look for tattoos or any place a teen may have carved or burned symbols into their flesh.

“It’s alarming, but I think for the most part a community’s biggest asset is going to be communication, to know what to look for,” Smith said.

Parents will always be Mustang’s best line of defense, James said, in helping protect area youth and neighborhoods. He said parents should be aware of any changes in their children’s behavior — including any preference to certain colors of clothes or “gang-style” drawing.

“We want parents in Mustang to be aware of things like that,” he said.

Smith challenged parents to make an effort to meet all of their children’s friends and friends’ parents and keep tabs on their children’s activities and Internet use. He said area youth have written about their gang involvement on their Web sites, and officers have used that information to identify other gang members.

“Don’t go to the judge and say, ‘I didn’t know they were into that stuff’,” he said. “I’ve got four kids of my own. I know who their friends are; I know where their friends live and what their parents do. They know what I do and where I live.”



Post new comment

Special Sections