Omaha Police, community members look to prevent youth crime
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Lately teenagers in the metro have been pulling triggers, and its caught the attention of the community and the police.
Police and many other organizations are doing all they can to prevent violence. The area has seen this kind of outbreak of violence by youth in the community before.
Omaha Police say there are around 80 different gang sets operating in the metro.
Omaha Police Lieutenant Marcus Taylor and Galat Toang are on the front lines dealing with troubled youth and gang activity. They say things have changed on the streets, rival gangs are now teaming up to form what they call super sets.
The violence isn’t random,” said Lt. Marcus Taylor, the Gang Suppression Commander with Omaha Police. “A lot of it is a feud between these supersets and that’s what we’ve been seeing this summer, is that things have just continued to escalate based on the retaliatory response from the incidents that happened over the summer.”
Police are seeing an uptick in the number of young people committing violent crimes. Earlier this year police say a 13-year-old invaded a home near 52nd and Sorensen, shot and killed a 19-year-old victim.
While this is concerning, it’s really nothing new. Years ago a baby-faced Jarell Milton was involved in a murder. Milton was 12 years old when he was arrested.
Galat Toang is a family youth engagement specialist who works for the Boys Club and partners with police. Toang says it’s important to get to these kids at an early age before they get caught up in the kind of trouble that brings flashing police lights.
“That’s where we come in,” Toang said. “We’re trying to build a relationship with these kids before they get a chance to go hang out with somebody, so we’re constantly talking to them at the age of eight, even at school.”
Toang says the children he deals with face many challenges, so positive influence is key.
“Some of them are at home by themselves, no guidance. Now I’m not knocking on parents, but some parents got to make a decision. Do they work or do they struggle? Kids with single parents are the ones I’m dealing with the most.”
Omaha police also say social media is having a big impact on negative and violent behavior among our youth.
Police say the keyboard has replaced the streets. Youngsters can now become interested and get involved in violent or gang activity and never leave the house.
“The issue that we have and the challenge that we have is now with technology, social media, as opposed to what 12-year-olds have to learn by the old OG‘s, or people having to tell them, they can go right on the internet, social media and learn how to become an effective gang member through those means,” Lt. Taylor said.
Police also believe it’s not only the negative messages on the internet that can grow violence, it can also be the music that influences some who don’t have guidance in the home.
“Some of these kids don’t understand what they’re listening to, but when their friends tell them to listen to this, they go home and they’re just constantly blasting that music,” Toang said. “At the end of the day that’s what’s drilled into their heads.”
Police have seen an uptick in the number of youth committing violent crimes lately, and they believe the influence of social media creates the possibility of starting a cycle of violence all over again.
“If something is said especially after a critical incident like a shooting or homicide, and you see people go to social media and they now disrespect that loved one or disrespect that person who has been hurt, that has played an impact again on those actions.”
Police say right now we are seeing more young people commit crimes‚ but there has also been an increase in the arrest of those teens, and they point out the small percentage of teens involved in violent crime does not define the youth of Omaha.
“We have a number of youth who are doing a phenomenal job. I think the more we can highlight those I think is positive, where we can highlight the good things that are going on.”
Police say it will take the efforts of the entire Omaha community to get involved in order to reduce youth violence.
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