Gang membership is increasing and police say it's Lubbock kids who are joining. In addition, some of those kids are breaking into homes and cars across the Hub City. It's a cycle of crime, violence and drugs which can lead to a lifetime membership in prison.
Chemical Dependency Counselor, Karen Williams said, "Some of the life is glamorized with Hip Hop music and everybody wants to be a gangster. They do not know what a gangster is and they do not know what being a gangster involves. But they would all like to be one." Williams adds drug and alcohol addiction is part of gang life.
On Tuesday, NewsChannel 11 wrapped up a three-part investigation into Lubbock's gang world. We started this investigation more than two months ago. We wanted to know how gangs in Lubbock affect crime in your neighborhood. Since then, we have uncovered that often gang membership involves drug deals, break-ins and murder. Now we hear how some ex-convicts and former gang members are trying to break that cycle.
On this particular Saturday night the party in the Depot District is getting started. However, just blocks away at the Teen Recovery Club. It is not a party, rather a battle, as teens some as young as 12-years-old try to stay clean.
"We ask only that if you are using to please just listen and talk to someone after the meeting," Aubin Alvarez, Director and Founder of the Teen Recovery Program.
Some of the teachers know all too well the realities of gangs and addiction.
"My name is Donnell Hooper. I just got out of prison. I stayed 27 years in prison," Hooper told the teens.
Ex-convict Donnell Hooper and former prison gang member Roger Duran expose the harsh realities of criminal life. Their goal is to help one kid at a time break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and street life.
"I dissociated myself from a very deadly and violent prison gang," former gang member Duran said. "We address substance abuse issues, criminal behavior, criminal thinking, gang affiliation, crime - the whole nine yards," Alvarez added.
Alvarez started the program more than five years ago to help fill what he says is a void in treatment for teens in Lubbock.
"For a kid to get help, and who doesn't have good insurance, he has to get locked up to get any kind of treatment and this is free," Alvarez said. "When you bring in kids off the streets who are able to sit in a room from where they've come from, it's a powerful tool."
Hooper told the group, "You never had to start using it. You chose too. That choice hooked you made you a sucker and you call it cool."
A reality that has helped keep teens like Monterey High School sophomore Justin Bryant clean for the past year. Justin was just 11 years old when he first got hooked on marijuana. He says as the years went by that addiction lead to other drugs. However, his rush came to an end about a year ago after a run-in with the law.
"A year an ago the last thing I would have been doing was playing football. That was the last thing I was worried about. Right now I am about 198 pounds, I was somewhere around 100 pounds when I got locked up," Bryant said.
Justin is one of many teens Alvarez says the program's lessons and support have changed for the better.
"I grew up in the ranks of the gang. A high ranking member, dangerous, who was here to steal, kill and destroy and recruit young men like you to do my dirty work," Duran told the teens.
"I know that we can't save every kid we meet. But every now and then we can save one and that's what my goal is," Alvarez added.
The Teen Recovery Program is a 24-hour seven days a week support program. The TRP's number is (806) 535-9717.
Lubbock Gangs: From The Streets Into Schools
Authorities say the average age of gang membership is 15-years old. A membership that as NewsChannel 11's Julia Bruck explains can move with teens from the streets into schools.
Gangs Help Drive Crime In Lubbock
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 vehicle break-ins and detectives say many of those may be gang-related. NewsChannel 11's Julia Bruck investigates.