DALLAS –- While many teens were sleeping or heading to summer jobs early Friday morning, nearly 40 teens and young adults from the Oak Cliff area gathered outside an apartment complex waiting to board a motor coach for a unique bus tour across Dallas.
The trip was dubbed the “FFG Tour” or “Future Former Gang Tour” by Councilman Dwaine Caraway of Dallas.
The teens began gathering outside an apartment complex which police described as a haven for gang activity and crime. Some teens say the site of such a large group of young people gathered in that area, all at once, could mean trouble any given day.
"It’s like a whole bunch of gangs,” said one 14-year-old girl, who didn’t want to be identified. “If you are not in one gang and you’re in another gang, it’s going to cause problems for you and get you in a situation."
The ongoing situation with gangs and violent crime involving teens and young adults in several pockets of Dallas is why Councilman Caraway decided to step in.
Caraway said after a conversation with one 13-year-old who claimed he was challenged by a group of gang members who nearly beat him with crowbars, he decided to use a bus tour of the city to reach out to the teens.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do,” Caraway said.
The mission of the bus tour, according to organizers, was to discuss curbing gang problems. Oak Cliff resident Lamar Collier said he’s witnessed a few issues.
“It’s a big concern. Something's got to change,” Collier said. “I mean, a lot of stuff [isn’t] right."
Councilman Caraway boarded the bus with students, community activists, and Dallas Police Gang Unit officers.
First, the group toured their own neighborhood in Oak Cliff. Caraway pointed out the blight, vandalism, and other issues some of the teens called a normal scene. As the tour continued through Downtown and North Dallas, some of the young adults began opening up and speaking candidly.
"The most issues we have as young people is, people don't respect us because we are young. Like, we get respect, we will show respect," Raymond Williams said.
Williams, 21, was one of the few willing to speak on camera due to fear of retaliation. He admitted to being arrested and charged with a violent crime in the past. Williams said when it comes to gang violence, some of the teens and young adults in his community were misunderstood.
"You know, if you don't get love at home, you know, somebody might show you more love on the streets,” Williams said.
The most recent data shows there are more than 9,134 documented gang members in Dallas, according to police. Officers say that figure is just a quarter of the total amount of gang-affiliated individuals across the city.
When asked how optimistic he was the bus tour would make a difference, Councilman Caraway said, “Well, you'll never stop terrorists completely, and we'll never stop gangs completely. But we have an opportunity to minimize the gangs, and we have an opportunity to maximize positive citizens."
The tour rounded out with visits to the AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park in Arlington, the 911 emergency operations center, radio station 97.9 The Beat, and what became an emotional trip to Golden Gate Funeral Home for many of the teenage participants.
"You know, it gives us a new look on life,” Williams said. “It builds up character to see things that go wrong in Dallas, that we can fix."
Caraway said the Future Former Gang Tour was such a success, he is now considering expanding the effort into other neighborhoods plagued with gangs and violent crime.