407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

State Police Survey
Highlights the Need for a
Collaborative Response to Gangs


Lieutenant Mark Wettengel
Investigator Dean Baratta
New Jersey State Police

 

Crips graffiti

In June 2005, Attorney General Peter Harvey released the results of a statewide report on criminal street gangs that places the number of street gang members operating in New Jersey at nearly 17,000, and the number of gangs at nearly 700.  The report, based on a 2004 survey conducted by State Police Gang Bureau personnel, provided the most comprehensive estimate to date by New Jersey law enforcement of the scope of the state’s gang problem.

            Over the past decade, several surveys have been undertaken by state officials in attempt to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of street gangs.  The 2004 NJSP Street Gang Bureau survey was unique due to high levels of participation by New Jersey law enforcement.  The 439 responding municipalities represent 91 percent of all New Jersey municipalities with full-time police departments and 87 percent of the state’s population.  This overwhelming response is perhaps a testament to the growing awareness and concern about the problem.


            Results from the 2001 and 2004 gang surveys indicate that the gang problem

persists.  In both years, one in three (33 percent) municipal respondents reported the presence of gangs in their jurisdiction.  This is consistent with national and regional trends reported by the National Youth Gang Center, which conducts annual gang surveys of law enforcement. 

            Additionally, in both 2001 and 2004, survey respondents estimated that at least17 percent of homicides in New Jersey involved gang members. While that proportion is disturbing in and of itself, that number could be significantly higher, since many municipalities could not estimate how many gang-related homicides occurred in their jurisdiction.

            Although the methodology of the survey differed in 2001 and 2004, (2001 was a telephone interview of nearly 200 police departments, while 2004 was a combination of mailed surveys and in-person interviews), tracking analysis of the 184 municipalities that responded in both years revealed that:

  • In 44 percent of the municipalities in which an active street gang presence was reported, gang activity was said by police to have increased compared to the previous year.
  • Rectangular Callout: “It is crucial for municipal leaders to recognize that gangs are not just an urban problem.”
  • In 37 percent of municipalities that reported no street gang presence in 2001, police now report gang activity taking place.
  • It is crucial for municipal leaders to recognize that gangs are not just an urban problem.  In fact, the proportion of police from suburban municipalities reporting gang presence in their towns increased 12 percent from 2001.  Suburban respondents accounted for 39 percent of all municipalities reporting gang presence in 2004.

Other gangs, however, were much more widely distributed: eleven gangs were mentioned by between 10 and 40 jurisdictions.  Gangs in this category include: 


  • MS-13 (36)
  • Pagans MC Club (36)
  • 18th Street Gang (25)
  • Five Percenters (22)
  • Neta (22)
  • Breed MC Club (18)
  • Vatos Locos (18)
  • Hells Angels MC Club (15)
  • Warlocks MC Club (12)
  • Dominicans Don't Play (11)
  • La Mugre (10)

Three gangs were even more widely distributed:  the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings combined to account for 39 percent of the total number of New Jersey gangs named in the 2004 survey.  The number of mentions for these gangs is noted below:

  • Bloods (110)
  • Crips (80)
  • Latin Kings (78)

 

            These same three gangs were at the top of every question that tried to identify the threat that each gang posed to the state.  The membership of these three gangs accounted for more than half of the entire estimated statewide population of gang members.  The Bloods were by far the largest with 4,064 members, followed by the Latin Kings (2,345 member), and the Crips (2,122).   Additionally, these three gangs were identified as the ones that were “most serious,” “most violent” and “most actively recruiting” by responding agencies. 

            The survey asked responding agencies to provide estimates on gender composition.  Respondents were able to provide gender breakdowns for virtually the entire population (98%) of reported gang members. Overall, approximately 14,658 males and 1,714 females were reported, resulting in a male to female ratio of 9 to  1.  However, there are certain gangs where females comprise a significant portion of the membership.  Twenty-two gangs were reported to have a female membership of 25 percent or more. 

            These survey results enhance our collective understanding about gangs in New Jersey, to be sure, but this knowledge is wasted without appropriate action.  Armed with this information, elected officials, community leaders, educators, and citizens should partner with law enforcement to identify the nature of the gang problem in their community and craft meaningful solutions.  The following recommendations are offered as a starting point for what we hope is an ongoing dialog:
           

  • The Governor and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) should consider issuing an executive directive regarding the systematic collection of gang-related crime data.  This may accelerate progress toward enactment of legislation on the topic.
  • Since most agencies report that they do not currently participate in task forces on gangs, the OAG should continue to emphasize the value and importance of the task force approach to gang-crime enforcement.

 

  • Survey respondents indicated that an estimated 43 percent of gang members are younger than 18 years of age.  Additionally, almost half of responding agencies (46 percent) reported gang-related incidents in their schools. Law enforcement must actively partner with schools to ensure that educators are trained in recognizing gang activity in the schools.  Lines of communication between law enforcement and the education community should be developed to foster the timely sharing of information. Additionally, data contained in the New Jersey Department of Education’s Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System should be analyzed to determine how gang related incidents in schools are reported.
  • In the 2004 Gang Survey, suburban municipalities were unable to estimate the number of gang members for more than 40 percent of gangs reported in their jurisdictions.  Suburban law enforcement agencies should send personnel to gang awareness training so they are better equipped to assess the nature of the gang problem in their jurisdiction.
  • The small number of municipal police departments using gang tracking systems indicates that while the law enforcement community has a wealth of knowledge about gangs, it does not necessarily have the technological means to share, store, or analyze it.  The Statewide Intelligence Management System (SIMS) is a free statewide intelligence database that has been implemented to ensure that every law enforcement officer within the State of New Jersey has access to extensive intelligence information about gangs, as well as narcotics syndicates, traditional and non-traditional organized crime groups and terrorists.  We encourage law enforcement from all levels to use the system for the tremendous resource that it can be.  For more information about SIMS, please contact 609-882-2000x2333.
            For a complete copy of the survey report, visit http://www.njsp.org.


 

 

 

NJLM - State Police Survey Highlights Gangs

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

State Police Survey
Highlights the Need for a
Collaborative Response to Gangs


Lieutenant Mark Wettengel
Investigator Dean Baratta
New Jersey State Police

 

Crips graffiti

In June 2005, Attorney General Peter Harvey released the results of a statewide report on criminal street gangs that places the number of street gang members operating in New Jersey at nearly 17,000, and the number of gangs at nearly 700.  The report, based on a 2004 survey conducted by State Police Gang Bureau personnel, provided the most comprehensive estimate to date by New Jersey law enforcement of the scope of the state’s gang problem.

            Over the past decade, several surveys have been undertaken by state officials in attempt to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of street gangs.  The 2004 NJSP Street Gang Bureau survey was unique due to high levels of participation by New Jersey law enforcement.  The 439 responding municipalities represent 91 percent of all New Jersey municipalities with full-time police departments and 87 percent of the state’s population.  This overwhelming response is perhaps a testament to the growing awareness and concern about the problem.


            Results from the 2001 and 2004 gang surveys indicate that the gang problem

persists.  In both years, one in three (33 percent) municipal respondents reported the presence of gangs in their jurisdiction.  This is consistent with national and regional trends reported by the National Youth Gang Center, which conducts annual gang surveys of law enforcement. 

            Additionally, in both 2001 and 2004, survey respondents estimated that at least17 percent of homicides in New Jersey involved gang members. While that proportion is disturbing in and of itself, that number could be significantly higher, since many municipalities could not estimate how many gang-related homicides occurred in their jurisdiction.

            Although the methodology of the survey differed in 2001 and 2004, (2001 was a telephone interview of nearly 200 police departments, while 2004 was a combination of mailed surveys and in-person interviews), tracking analysis of the 184 municipalities that responded in both years revealed that:

  • In 44 percent of the municipalities in which an active street gang presence was reported, gang activity was said by police to have increased compared to the previous year.
  • Rectangular Callout: “It is crucial for municipal leaders to recognize that gangs are not just an urban problem.”
  • In 37 percent of municipalities that reported no street gang presence in 2001, police now report gang activity taking place.
  • It is crucial for municipal leaders to recognize that gangs are not just an urban problem.  In fact, the proportion of police from suburban municipalities reporting gang presence in their towns increased 12 percent from 2001.  Suburban respondents accounted for 39 percent of all municipalities reporting gang presence in 2004.

Other gangs, however, were much more widely distributed: eleven gangs were mentioned by between 10 and 40 jurisdictions.  Gangs in this category include: 


  • MS-13 (36)
  • Pagans MC Club (36)
  • 18th Street Gang (25)
  • Five Percenters (22)
  • Neta (22)
  • Breed MC Club (18)
  • Vatos Locos (18)
  • Hells Angels MC Club (15)
  • Warlocks MC Club (12)
  • Dominicans Don't Play (11)
  • La Mugre (10)

Three gangs were even more widely distributed:  the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings combined to account for 39 percent of the total number of New Jersey gangs named in the 2004 survey.  The number of mentions for these gangs is noted below:

  • Bloods (110)
  • Crips (80)
  • Latin Kings (78)

 

            These same three gangs were at the top of every question that tried to identify the threat that each gang posed to the state.  The membership of these three gangs accounted for more than half of the entire estimated statewide population of gang members.  The Bloods were by far the largest with 4,064 members, followed by the Latin Kings (2,345 member), and the Crips (2,122).   Additionally, these three gangs were identified as the ones that were “most serious,” “most violent” and “most actively recruiting” by responding agencies. 

            The survey asked responding agencies to provide estimates on gender composition.  Respondents were able to provide gender breakdowns for virtually the entire population (98%) of reported gang members. Overall, approximately 14,658 males and 1,714 females were reported, resulting in a male to female ratio of 9 to  1.  However, there are certain gangs where females comprise a significant portion of the membership.  Twenty-two gangs were reported to have a female membership of 25 percent or more. 

            These survey results enhance our collective understanding about gangs in New Jersey, to be sure, but this knowledge is wasted without appropriate action.  Armed with this information, elected officials, community leaders, educators, and citizens should partner with law enforcement to identify the nature of the gang problem in their community and craft meaningful solutions.  The following recommendations are offered as a starting point for what we hope is an ongoing dialog:
           

  • The Governor and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) should consider issuing an executive directive regarding the systematic collection of gang-related crime data.  This may accelerate progress toward enactment of legislation on the topic.
  • Since most agencies report that they do not currently participate in task forces on gangs, the OAG should continue to emphasize the value and importance of the task force approach to gang-crime enforcement.

 

  • Survey respondents indicated that an estimated 43 percent of gang members are younger than 18 years of age.  Additionally, almost half of responding agencies (46 percent) reported gang-related incidents in their schools. Law enforcement must actively partner with schools to ensure that educators are trained in recognizing gang activity in the schools.  Lines of communication between law enforcement and the education community should be developed to foster the timely sharing of information. Additionally, data contained in the New Jersey Department of Education’s Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System should be analyzed to determine how gang related incidents in schools are reported.
  • In the 2004 Gang Survey, suburban municipalities were unable to estimate the number of gang members for more than 40 percent of gangs reported in their jurisdictions.  Suburban law enforcement agencies should send personnel to gang awareness training so they are better equipped to assess the nature of the gang problem in their jurisdiction.
  • The small number of municipal police departments using gang tracking systems indicates that while the law enforcement community has a wealth of knowledge about gangs, it does not necessarily have the technological means to share, store, or analyze it.  The Statewide Intelligence Management System (SIMS) is a free statewide intelligence database that has been implemented to ensure that every law enforcement officer within the State of New Jersey has access to extensive intelligence information about gangs, as well as narcotics syndicates, traditional and non-traditional organized crime groups and terrorists.  We encourage law enforcement from all levels to use the system for the tremendous resource that it can be.  For more information about SIMS, please contact 609-882-2000x2333.
            For a complete copy of the survey report, visit http://www.njsp.org.


 

 

 

Article in October 2005, New Jersey Municipalities