Detective Tim Hock has pursued drive-by shooters, homicide suspects and robbery suspects in every corner of Oklahoma City for nearly two decades. He hunts down “the worst of the worst.”
Hock is a gang unit investigator for the Oklahoma City Police Department. He has been a part of the gang unit for 19 years — 10 years on the street gang team and nine as a detective.
“The entire time I was on the street team, the turnover was very low. Guys got over there; they loved what they were doing,” Hock said.
“In the last so many years, we have a little bit higher turnover, but it's still a pretty coveted position because you get to do nothing but hunt bad guys. You get to do, what I classify as real, hard police work, which is hunt the worst of the worst.”
Those in that position endure a headache unique to the gang unit — the victims they encounter and their lack of cooperation.
“Investigating gang crimes is like digging a hole in a mud puddle. You are trying to do all your work and identify the bad guys, and you get no cooperation from one side,” Hock said. “Some of them will just flat tell you, ‘I'm not going to talk to you; I'm not going to tell you who did it; I know who did it; I'll take care of it.'
“It's not like a lot of the other detective units, where you have victims that are cooperative with you and will give you information.”
Hock said victims are uncooperative about 75 percent of the time. Police officers investigating gang-on-gang crime often are considered a victim's enemy as much as the suspect is, he said.
In gang crime investigations, someone will be the victim one week and then become the suspect the next, gang unit Lt. Stuart May said.
Most gang violence is targeted at other gang members, while violence against the general public is either a crime of opportunity or is collateral damage in order to get to the true target — a rival gang member, investigators said.
“Gang members target other gang members with most of their violence. You hear all these horror stories of gang initiations where you see a car without headlights and you flash your lights at them, and it's a gang initiation and they are going to come around and shoot you,” Hock said. “That's not true. There has not been one documented case in the United States of that,” Hock said.
Gang-related violence helped push the number of homicides in Oklahoma City to the third-highest year ever last year, Oklahoma City police Chief Bill Citty said.
Gang-related and gang-involved homicides almost doubled in 2012, Citty said.
“We do (work with homicide detectives) pretty much on a daily basis, not because the homicide increase involves gang members, but when working homicide you want to talk to anyone who knows anything,” May said. “They will come to us with a nickname or something that may be gang-related just to find a witness. They may be coming to us on a daily basis just so we can try to track some people down.”
The gang unit has four drive-by investigators and two street teams consisting of seven uniformed officers in marked police vehicles — six officers and one lieutenant per team.
We found that it was a really vital time in a young person's life with a lot of peer pressure. In the seventh, eighth, ninth grade, they kind of have their mind made up, so if we can get them at their critical point, we can change a lot of direction in a lot of young people.”
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