You may never come face to face with a gang member, but gangs are showing their faces in Lubbock homes, driveways and parking lots. This year alone, Lubbock Police report nearly 1,900 home and car break-ins and detectives say many of those may be gang-related.
Lubbock Police Department Captain Greg Stevens said, "Most gangs are neighborhood type gangs so a lot of them identify by a certain street or a neighborhood, North side and South side.
Stevens says crimes like car burglaries and home break-ins often help fund gang members' drug trade. In addition, those crimes are occurring across the city, and not just in one certain neighborhood.
On Tuesday night, we hear from two former gang members about this world of crimes and drugs.
"TV's, lawn movers, car stereos (I would take) anything that is going to make money for me so I could support my habit," this former street gang member said.
For his safety, the 20-year-old asked that we not show his face or share his name. That's because, we caught up with him just days after he was released from the Lubbock County Jail.
"I (went) back to jail for endangering my grandmother," he said. This man, whom we'll call Michael, began a history with the justice system after he joined a Lubbock street gang at the age of 13.
"The group we had at Smiley Wilson Junior High was the Texas Outlaws," Michael said. To be an Outlaw, Michael says he had to prove he had heart.
"To be in the gang you had to get jumped for at least 30 seconds and this was going on in the schools. Go to the restroom and three guys jump on you and you take it and if you can't take it you're not in the gang," Michael said
For Michael, the lifestyle also fueled an addiction, as he sold drugs to other teens across Lubbock. Michael says he also broke into homes and cars, stealing anything for drug money.
"I would trade it with a drug dealer or some people who would buy it and use it at their convenience," Michael added.
In Michael's case, it landed him behind Lubbock County Jail bars more than once. However, as the crimes grow more serious, the penalty becomes prison and in some cases a new membership in a Texas prison gang.
"When I got to prison I graduated into a higher scale. I joined one of the Texas prison's most violent prison gangs," former prison gang member Roger Duran said.
Duran spent 18 years behind prison bars for a robbery that ended in murder. At age 16, Roger was tried as an adult and turned 17 in prison.
"Initially I went to prison for five years. I got out but I only stayed out for two months because of my involvement with the gang," Roger said.
Roger says that back behind bars he became a ranking member of the gang and called shots from inside prison walls.
Lubbock County District Attorney's Office Investigator Rod Rodriguez says prison gangs are not worried about turf issues like street gangs. Instead, it is a membership that revolves around pushing drugs, crime and protection.
"We do see some instances where individuals were recruited by a prison gang while they were still in the street gang, but that doesn't occur as often as it does in larger communities," Rodriguez said.
For Roger that power came at a price.
"I was confirmed as what they call a security threat group member, and they isolated me and put me into administrative segregation. I was locked up 23 hours a day, seven days a week for seven years," Roger explained.
Once released from prison, Roger went to a Lubbock halfway house where he began to get clean and disassociate himself from the gang. Roger says he left the gang four years ago and is currently working in Lubbock. But unfortunately, that membership has lifetime effects.
"I've got a hit; I've got a contract on my life. I always will," Roger said. NewsChannel 11 asked if prison gangs are active in Lubbock. "Yah, absolutely," Roger said. When asked how they are active in Lubbock or other cities, Roger replied, "drugs, extortion and robberies."
"Some of the prison gangs we've seen representative here in Lubbock would be primarily the Texas Syndicate, the Mexican ME, normally people call it the Mexican Mafia. We have individuals with the Razza Unida," Rodriguez said.
Those are all gangs Michael could someday come face to face with, as he faces up to ten years in prison after a grand jury indicted him for allegedly harming his grandmother.
"One group in the streets could become worse because I could become involved in prison gangs because I'm used to that," Michael added.
If you see what appears to be a group casing a house or if you suspect drugs are being dealt at a house near you, police ask you to call them immediately.
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