McLoud is all too aware that their area is becoming a much sought-after residence. Settling in the countryside attracts many looking for quiet solitude, but others appear to be seeking it to hide under the radar.

[Editor's note: This is the second part in a two-part series about how McLoud leaders are seeking ways to discourage gang- and drug-related activities within the community — especially as it affects children in the McLoud school district.]

Recent events — namely the deaths of local teens over the summer — have people up-in-arms about tackling drug use and gang activity in their hometown.

Though problems with gangs and drug use are getting increasingly more prevalent across the nation, on Thursday McLoud leaders sought help to ensure characters with unwholesome behavior become so uncomfortable they'll choose to leave town.

McLoud is all too aware that their area is becoming a much sought-after residence. Settling in the countryside attracts many looking for quiet solitude, but others appear to be seeking it to hide under the radar.

Officials and administrators, as well as several related agencies, gathered this week to seek solutions to a shared concern — a gang- and drug-related trend that seems to be on the rise in the area.

Though drug use and gang activity is nothing new or unusual anywhere in the U.S., McLoud is taking a proactive step, determined to push the trend outside its borders.

McLoud school district principals shared pages of evidence that gangs and drug use are increasingly becoming a problem for their students.

Addressing area leaders Thursday, McLoud High School Principal Rhonda Hockenbury identified numerous drug/gang-related issues she has encountered during the school year. Middle school principal Angie Drew said symptoms of the problem also are visible at her students' level, as well.

Hockenbury said there are currently three types of people in McLoud right now: people who are selling and using drugs; the people afraid of them; and then those who are oblivious to what's going on.

After a pair of teens had been caught at school under the influence of marijuana, Hockenbury shared the discovery of how and where the teens had purchased it.

Snapchat, she said. Two males from Midwest City had posted some pictures that they were selling marijuana, that it was high-quality stuff and they would meet you in an abandoned parking lot, she said.

“This 17-year-old girl and a friend drove to Midwest City, met these two adult males in an abandoned parking lot and purchased drugs from them,” she said. “I said, 'Do you realize how dangerous that was? We could never have seen you again. They could have killed you, kidnapped you, raped you, sold you, you know whatever. Do you understand how dangerous that is?'”

Hockenbury said they don't.

“They don't understand that,” she said. “That was a huge concern.”

Meth use also has been noticed and was easily accessible to students, as well.

“We discovered that dealers were targeting some of the students to bring drugs on campus,” she said. “They were specifically targeting some of our special education kids and that just really hit me pretty hard.”

She said her students are fearful of the illegal and dangerous behavior going on around them.

Drugs aren't the only issue, though.

Last year she said she also noticed signs of some teen involvement with particular gangs.

On one such instance, an altercation erupted in a park between a pair of students and two adult males.

“Two adult males approached two of my high school students; they wanted some information,” she said.

One of the kids basically resisted and ended up in a physical altercation with the man, she said.

“The man pulled a pistol out of his back pocket, pistol-whipped my kid with it — cut him across his ear — and when the two boys took off, (the man) fired two shots at them,” she said. “Our police were able to locate those two men; they did belong to the Indian Brotherhood gang.”

It's a little bit scary that we now know we have gang activity going on around here, she said. Other incidents have revealed the presence of other gangs, also, she said.

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Director Mark Woodward said he could share countless examples of how rural areas in the state have fallen prey to organized drug cartels due to a combination of close access to major roadways, and the naturally low-key spaces in and around small towns.

In an effort to develop a plan of action, McLoud leaders plan to set up a community meeting to gain help from the area's residents in battling the problem — the idea is to get everyone in the community working together by being watchful for suspicious or unusual behavior and then reporting it.

Woodward said such tactics can have more positive effects than anyone realizes.

He said his agency can't stress enough the importance of getting communities to talk when they see something. Some of their best cases started out with a phone call from a concerned citizen, he said.

He shared a huge cartel operation in western Oklahoma was shut down because of such a phone call.

The caller reported seeing some trucks he didn't recognize going back and forth to a barn in a remote area late at night.

He said the bureau started working surveillance and ended up shutting down a group out of Juarez, Mexico.

“It was bringing in literally 2,500 pounds (of drugs) on semi trucks on a weekly basis,” he said. “They would be unloaded, broken up and then be shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City.”

And they were working out of a little place called Thomas, Oklahoma, he said.

It was simply a nervous neighbor who saw something that didn't belong, Woodward said.

Another example was a bust of the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico, where the brother was living on a horse ranch on Lexington, Oklahoma.

“He was wiring potentially billions and laundering it through horses,” he said.

Woodward said rural areas are prime real estate for such groups.

“We're in close proximity to the border, our highway system — 95 percent of the drugs imported into the U.S. are going to come in either through Tijuana, Mexico, into San Diego, they are going to come across Ciudad, Mexico and El Paso, Texas,” he said. “Interstate 40 and Interstate 35 bisect in downtown Oklahoma City.”

So, whether it's staying here or a trans-shipment point, these people come and set up shop and will try to blend in here, he said.

He said we don't want them to get a foothold here.

“You guys know your community,” he said. “That's why you're the best resource.”

Say something about anything unusual you see, he said.

Watch a video online at news-star.com for more of Hockenbury's report.

Watch for updates.