Now is Time for Action

The talk is over. Now it is time for action and that is what is ahead in Tulsa’s fight against gangs.
Mayor Kathy Taylor and U.S. Attorney David O’Melia both are optimistic the city is on the right path toward easing the problem that has plagued the Tulsa for many years.
Both acknowledge that gangs will never be eliminated, but that citizens can take their community back, that unsafe areas again can be made safe.
That success will depend upon the involvement of everyone in the community, Taylor said, not just police for enforcement or the district attorney for prosecution.
She also challenged the media to run the positive side about youth in the community, not just negative stories.
O’Melia added that the effort should focus on community building with a partnership with everyone working together.
‘‘We brought people together and a team approach being built,’’ he said.
Clearly the community is ready to step up to the plate and take action on this issue,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘It will take everyone to make a difference in the process. Next week there will be a meeting to consolidate ideas, but at least one committee already is stepping out to get things done.’’
O’Melia said he already noticed working groups focused on working with youth and adults to prevent gang problems in schools.
This is an across-the-board effort to reach out to families, to help provide value systems that work.
‘‘We need to get kids early on and impress upon them they can have a positive life without worrying about violence against themselves or their families,’’ he said. ‘‘We also need to point out the hopelessness and consequences for the future that can be experienced in a gang atmosphere.’’
Role models for young people are critical, Taylor said. Many of these kids come from homes where they don’t have anyone to look up to.
Gangs provide an organizational structure for people, O’Melia added. Members have someone to look up to.
Volunteers already have been signing up to help, Taylor said. ‘‘I called for help during my state of the city address at the Tulsa Metro Chamber meeting. Cards placed on the table were filled out and many came up after the meeting offering to help. This is a positive message.
People are needed to help mentor these young people at all levels, from elementary through high school, she said. They need to see there is hope, that they can work in the system earning a prevailing wage and be part of society.
‘‘This is not just a job for the U.S. Attorney’s office, the mayor’s office or police department,’’ Taylor stated. Changes won’t be seen overnight or even in six months. But with input and everyone working together, there will be a long-term change.
O’Melia underscored the need for volunteers from all sources — church groups, social service agencies and others — channeling efforts toward programs that will address gang issues.
A crisis involvement center is needed to bring services under one roof, but that will require funding and assistance from federal and state lawmakers, Taylor said. It will take the support of every agency working together as a unit.
Programs need to be in place that catch people who fall through the cracks in the system, he said. Recall comments of the Department of Corrections speaker who noted the re-entry program as people prepare to leave the penal system.
This program starts six months prior to release, but that is not truly effective because sometimes that time is shortened and they are released before it is completed. The suggestion is the prison re-entry program should start a year before release.
O’Melia said he didn’t know how many people he has prosecuted during his 30 years, but he noted that as he became acquainted with these individuals he was amazed at their skills.
Had these skills been channeled in other directions they would have been at the top of corporations, he said.
This summit is exciting, Taylor said. It is a dramatic happening that will make a difference in Tulsa.

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