In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 2022, the ever-persistent issue of gang violence was once again thrust into the spotlight.
“Baby-faced” Noah Ney, just 16 years old, took part in a drive-by shooting in a stolen vehicle, as part of his initiation into the Hoover Crips gang. In this escapade, a five-year-old girl was grievously wounded, being hit in her neck and shoulder while she was innocently playing outside.
Noah’s initiation act was a clear demonstration of loyalty to his chosen gang. Unfortunately, his loyalty was marked by violence and had dire consequences. As a result of his actions, the 4′ 9″, Ney faced trial as an adult and was subsequently handed a prison sentence that spans over 50 years. The charges against him included firearm possession, intent to kill, and drug possession.
Noah had been involved in criminal activities since middle school, with gun charges, robberies and drug offenses, and reportedly terrorizing the neighborhood. In August 2022, after his arrest in the initiation shooting, he escaped from a juvenile center but was arrested three days later. Prosecutors said in the juvenile center he had attacked staff, flooded his cell and put feces on the walls.
The reasons young people like Ney are drawn to gangs vary. Some join for protection or respect, while others are lured by the promise of money or because they have friends already involved. There are many factors that can make one more susceptible to gang culture.
For instance, having problems at school, being around gang members, or showing aggressive tendencies can increase the chances of a young person getting involved in gang activities. This information, detailed by youth.gov, makes it evident that early intervention can be crucial in steering vulnerable youth away from this destructive path.
However, it’s not all grim. There are potential solutions that can be tapped into. One of these is the introduction of recreational programs for youth. Research from AHS Illinois suggests that getting youths involved in activities like sports, arts, and crafts can be a robust preventive measure against gang involvement. Based on insights from 39 ex-gang members in Chicago, it’s apparent that well-structured recreational programs can play a role in not only preventing but also intervening and rehabilitating those already ensnared in the gang lifestyle. The trick is to make these activities appealing to young minds, ensuring they are seen as attractive alternatives to gang involvement.
Another comprehensive approach to address the gang issue is the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model. This strategy emphasizes the importance of community involvement and providing opportunities to at-risk youths. It also highlights the need for social intervention, suppression of gang activities, and changes in organizational structures that may inadvertently support gang culture. To implement this model effectively, a clear understanding of the gang problem in a community is necessary. This means collecting and analyzing data to get a clearer picture. Furthermore, the role of mentoring in deterring youths from gangs cannot be overstated. Mentorship has consistently shown promise as a preventive measure.
The incident involving Noah Ney is a stark reminder of the perils of gang culture. It underscores the need for proactive measures to ensure that young people are given opportunities and alternatives that steer them away from such a destructive path. With concerted efforts, it is possible to envision a future where incidents like these become a thing of the past.