DENVER (CBS4) – From gang fights to gang flights. The idea is to show gang members what they’re fighting over and show them why they’re missing the bigger picture. CBS4’s Gloria Neal wanted to see how it works, so she went up for a tour.
“Gangs aren’t really what they make themselves out to be,” former gang member Ryan Ballez said. “They put you where I just came from, in jail. Ruin your life doing that, so don’t.”
Ballez has been in and out of jail for gang-related offenses for a good portion of his teen years.
“Don’t do it. It’s big. It’s a big mistake,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest mistakes that you could ever make.”
There was a time when rival gang members wouldn’t dare be in the same room, but not anymore. They’re not only talking to one another, they’re flying together.
Jeff Puckett is the chopper pilot for Gang Flights. He wants to help those who want a chance at a different life.
“Were not doing this because we want something back,” Puckett said. “The only thing we want back is for you to enjoy yourself and see your city with new eyes.”
And open their eyes it has. Rival gang members fly side-by-side on a chopper ride that stretches from Centennial Airport into downtown Denver, over the Pepsi Center, Coors Field, as well as Sports Authority Field and even Red Rocks.
Rev. Leon Kelly, Executive Director of the Open Door Youth Gang Alternative Program, says Gang Flights is helping gang members really see the big picture.
“To try to allow our kids who say that they are willing to live and die for their hood to really see how small their hood really is in the scope of things,” Kelly said.
“Yeah, you can’t really tell different neighborhoods at all. Barely. I barely even knew where I was until I kind of pointed it out,” Ballez said. “Followed from the stadium, then I followed to Federal, then I knew right where we were.”
The program helps young men and women find their way by showing them the problems they think they have are so small when seen from on high.