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Newark’s 6th Graders to participate in innovative gang and violence prevention programs

Newark's 6th Graders to participate in innovative gang and violence prevention programs


Violence Prevention Institute receives new funding from PSE&G Foundation to expand gang awareness and prevention programs to students & parents

January 8, 2008

Newark and East Orange, NJ – The Violence Prevention Institute (VPI) in partnership with PSE&G Foundation, East Orange General Hospital and The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) will provide over 3,000 6th Graders and over 1000 parents in Newark, violence prevention, gang recognition and awareness training.

“This program is designed to change the attitudes and beliefs of young people and their parents who live in an environment where violence is often perceived as an appropriate response to conflicts,” says VPI CEO, Dr. Duane Dyson.  “Our Cops & Docs, Gang Recognition and Awareness programs provide viable solutions for the communities we serve”.

Both the Cops & Docs, Gang Recognition and Awareness programs are presented by a team of Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physicians and law enforcement officials as well as someone who has suffered as a result of violence.  The program delves into the misconceptions of violence and the Medical and Legal consequences of violence in everyday life. 

The founding doctors of VPI were compelled to start a program as a result of treating an alarming number of gun shot victims and other victims of violence in their emergency rooms.  The number of victims they and their colleagues were treating resulted in declaring this as a public health crisis.  Children, teens, adults and especially innocent people are dying or are being seriously injured in monumental rates.  In addition, violence is increasing in all communities, not just those traditionally seen in the news.

NOBLE will provide volunteer law enforcement executives to present the legal component of the program.  Participants are educated on the consequences of violence and how it affects them for the rest of their lives and the lives of their families.  The physician’s portion of the program demonstrates the realities of emergency departments using visual aides as well as surgical and emergency room instruments.   Sometimes shocking, participants see first hand the impacts of violence such as gun shot wounds and other injuries. The program is set to start in the coming months.

The mission of the Violence Prevention Institute is to reduce the incidence of youth violence through education, prevention, intervention, research and behavior modification.

NOBLE's mission is to ensure equity in the administration of justice in the provision of public service to all communities, and to serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.

For more information call 973-395-0311 or visit

Download this Press Release as a PDF

Convocation highlights gang dangers

Bringing violence education into classrooms and homes

Convocation highlights gang dangers

Friday, March 23, 2007

Getting shot in the chest and legs was the best thing that ever happened to Hashim Garrett.

At the time, the 15-year-old ruffian lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had begun to stray from his gang-like friends. In return, he sustained 12 gunshot wounds where six bullets entered and left his body, paralyzing him from the waist down.

"I waited alone on the street for a half hour, lying in my own blood. I looked at the sky above me, praying for God not to let me die," said Garrett, now 32. "In the hospital, I kept thinking how I wanted to retaliate -- get back on the streets and get that guy back."

But soon, he said, the realization came that if he went back to his old lifestyle, he would likely end up in the morgue. So instead, he moved to Orange and began a new life as a motivational speaker.

At the annual Law Enforcement and Education Convocation yesterday, Garrett's story became one of several first-hand accounts about the dangers of youth violence and gang activity. The guest speakers and Mercer County officials didn't just address the problem, they urged for a more proactive approach both in the home and inside the classroom.

"The idea 'it's not in my backyard' is no longer true. Gangs and youth violence are things we don't want to talk about, but they do exist in every school across the state," said Pasquale Colavita Jr., chairman of the Mercer County Board of Freeholders. "We have to reach children at a younger age and relate to them."

The school component of preventing violence cannot be "understated," said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. School districts need to reach students at younger grade levels to ensure their future doesn't "go in the wrong direction," he said.

For the past decade, that's what Garrett and Dr. Duane Dyson have been doing.

Just ask Dyson, an emergency medical physician and director of the Violence Prevention Institute, how many times he's told parents their child has died because of youth violence. He'll tell you that 353 times is too many.

Calling youth violence a "public health crisis," Dyson founded the Violence Prevention Institute of East Orange three years ago to bring the "medical aspect" of such violence into the classroom.

Some photographs Dyson presents depict victims with gunshot wounds through their face, legs and chest. Other snapshots show victims' slash marks and stab wounds. And then, there are the stories.

"Last night, I had a patient who was a Bloods member. He came in after being (hit) in the head with a machete. Half his face was almost chopped off," Dyson said.

Another time, Dyson said he treated a 14-year-old girl who was being "sexed" into a gang, where she had to engage in intercourse as part of initiation. After being penetrated by six men, the girl changed her mind. She no longer wanted to join the gang; she wanted to go home. She wanted to call the police, he said.

"So what did the gang members do?" Dyson asked. They took a gun and shot her in the groin.

It is stories like these that Dyson hopes will bring sense to youngsters on how to avoid gangs and violence. Currently, he shows the video to sixth- and seventh-graders across the state. But officials yesterday agreed across the board -- violence education should begin in kindergarten.

Some school-based initiatives include community service, internship, recreation and employment programs, Garrett said.

Another violence prevention method for both schools and parents is to monitor students' interaction, Garrett said. The people who surround a student will have a huge influence on his or her choices, he said. And while a child may not like to hear "you can't hang out with them," Garrett said that statement could end up saving a life later on.

At a young age, students should also be taught conflict resolution, specifically about the three causes of homicide: arguments, alcohol or drugs and weapons, Garrett said.


Dr. Duane Dyson Selected as NASW-NJ Citizen of the Year

For Immediate Release

Dr. Duane Dyson, Chairman and CEO of the Violence Prevention Institute, to Receive Citizen of the Year Award from National Association of Social Workers’ New Jersey Chapter

(April 2, 2006, East Orange, NJ ) Duane J. Dyson, M.D., FAAEM, Chairman & CEO of the Violence Prevention Institute, Inc., and a board-certified emergency physician, is the recipient of the 2006 Citizen of the Year Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.  Dr. Dyson will be recognized and presented with his award on Monday, April 24th in a special ceremony being held at The Hilton in East Brunswick, NJ during the NASW-NJ Annual Conference.

The Citizen of the Year award is presented to a non-social worker who, through her or his business, professional, and/or community activities best exemplifies the goals and ideals of the social work profession.  The award criteria are as follows:

  • Demonstrated social activism in the community, either through donation of skills, talents, time, public service, advocacy, or initiation of programs that show vision and benefit for services to the poor and disenfranchised
  • Brought community statewide or national attention to issues of educational need, social justice, inequality, and other community needs or problems
  • Brought about social change with his/her voice or support
  • Demonstrated that he/she is a civic, socially conscious leader

According to Heather Mills-Pevonis, 1st Vice President of NASW-NJ, “Dr. Dyson was selected as Citizen of the Year due to his dedication and devotion to embrace those in need, while advocating and addressing various public health issues that threaten our society. It was his resilient spirit of overcoming adversity in his own life and using his personal experience to empower others that truly established him as our Citizen of the Year.

Dr. Duane Dyson

Dr. Dyson has demonstrated social activism in the community for more than twenty years. He has overcome the childhood stigma of being labeled a Special Education student to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. While in medical school, the nominee spent his school breaks teaching high school students as a way to give back to the institution he felt had helped him reach his career goals.

Dr. Dyson earned his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, finishing his postgraduate training in Emergency Medicine and becoming one of the nation’s first African American Board Certified Emergency Medicine physicians. At this time, he began mentoring minority students, stressing the importance of educational achievement. One of his most promising students, Sampson Davis, is today one of the renowned “The Three Doctors,” who serve as role models for inner city youth.

 Dr. Dyson has repeatedly proven himself a tireless role model and public servant. After graduating from Cornell University , he returned to work in a local hospital in his native East Orange where, as Director of the Emergency Services Department, he pushed for improved patient care services. Later, as Vice President of Medical Affairs, he advocated for urban hospitals facing takeover by larger medical conglomerates.

 Dr. Dyson has also strongly supported hospital staff and rewarded their hard work. He has consistently donated his personal time and finances to support community health events and diversity awareness campaigns in suburban communities.

 Ten years ago, recognizing a major increase in severe injuries to adolescents and young adults, he launched the Violence Prevention Institute, Inc, a non-profit organization dedicated to violence prevention and intervention programs targeted to middle and high school students in several Essex County school districts. Within one year, the program reached more than 10,000 young people. The NJ Attorney General, Essex Prosecutor’s Office, Essex County Juvenile Justice Commission, and PSE&G have praised the Violence Prevention Institute as one of the state’s most effective programs to prevent youth violence.

For more information about the Violence Prevention Institute, please call 973 395-0311 or visit them online at

NJ Attorney General Harvey Releases Gang Survey Results

AG Harvey Announces Gang Survey Results: N.J. Home to 17,000 Street Gang Members

TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today released the results of a new, statewide report on illegal street gang activity that places the number of street gang members operating in New Jersey at nearly 17,000, and the number of gangs at nearly 700.

Based on a 2004 State Police Gang Bureau survey of law enforcement personnel in the 479 municipalities that maintain full-time police departments – 91 percent of those departments responded -- the survey provides the most comprehensive, law-enforcement-based estimate of street gang membership in New Jersey to date.

Attorney General Harvey said that, in addition to providing a statistical picture of the street gang presence in New Jersey , the 2004 survey offers compelling anecdotal evidence that gang activity is on the rise statewide. For example:

  • 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.
  • In 37 percent of municipalities that reported no street gang presence during a similar survey done in 2001, police now report that there is gang activity taking place.
  • In 39 percent of responding suburban municipalities, police reported the presence of gangs in their towns, an increase of 27 percent compared to 2001.

“We have made many gang-related arrests, and conducted many successful gang-related prosecutions. We have launched a number of gang-prevention initiatives that are already making a difference in young lives. Despite these efforts, New Jersey continues to have a significant problem with street gangs and related community

violence, ” said Attorney General Harvey during a press conference today at the Hughes Justice Complex.

Joining Harvey at the press conference were State Police Superintendent Col. Joseph R. Fuentes and Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy. Also attending were Dr. Duane Dyson, Chairman of the Violence Prevention Institute, and Dr. Robert Johnson, Chairman of Pediatrics and Director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

“Too many young people are being maimed or killed in gang-related violence, and too many innocent citizens are being impacted when that violence takes place on the street, which it often does,” said the Attorney General. “Collectively, we have to stop being reactive to the gang problem, and begin to address it through comprehensive and collaborative prevention strategies. Of course, we cannot begin to effectively deal with the gang problem until we fully understand it, which surveys like this are helping us to do.”

In conducting the 2004 gang survey, said Superintendent Fuentes, State Police asked municipal law enforcement agencies to respond to a detailed questionnaire about gang activity in their communities. Some of the surveys were done in the form of a telephone interview between State Police personnel and the chief of a department, or the chief’s designee. Other surveys were done by mail, although the questions posed were the same in both cases.

Current Gang Membership

Fuentes said that, according to the 2004 survey, there are 28 gangs in New Jersey made up of 100 or more members. Those gangs account for more than half of all gang members throughout the state. The survey results also indicate that, despite evidence of gang proliferation in the suburbs, inner-city neighborhoods continue to be the principal home ground for street gangs. Approximately 70 percent of gang members reported in the 2004 survey were reported by police in New Jersey ’s urban centers.

The three gangs consistently mentioned by local police agencies as their most serious problem were the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings. Those three gangs also have the largest estimated aggregate membership: Bloods (4,000), Latin Kings (2,345) and Crips (2,100). 
According to other survey results:

  • Approximately 17 percent of all reported homicides in New Jersey involve gang members.
  • There are more than an estimated 2,300 gang members in New Jersey under age 15. Statewide, 18-to-24-year-olds form the largest single sub-group of gang members, followed by 15-to-17-year-olds, and then those older than 24.
  • Within the estimated statewide membership of 16,700 gang members, the ratio of male gang members to female gang members is about 9-to-1. However, 22 street gangs were reported to have a female membership of 25 percent or more.
  • The majority of identified street gangs – about 76 percent – are made up of members from the same racial and ethnic backgrounds. (30 percent black, 29 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white, less than 1 percent Asian). Multi-racial or multi-ethnic gangs made up about 14 percent of all gangs reported in the 2004 survey. For the remainder of street gangs identified by police, no information was provided on racial/ethnic composition.

The former head of the State Police gang unit, Fuentes noted that is sometimes difficult to obtain reliable information about gang activity. For example, a group of lawbreakers that appears to function as a street gang may disband due to poor organization or lack of sustained interest, only to re-emerge later and once again become active. Other street gangs, meanwhile, may operate in multiple jurisdictions at the same time, or on a shifting basis, making it difficult to determine if their membership constitutes one outlaw gang or several.

“Developing reliable information that helps us understand gang activity -- and then keeping that information current -- is the challenge that confronts us,” said Fuentes. “By its very nature, the process of quantifying the gang problem, identifying regions of the state where gangs are most prevalent, and understanding the nature of gang activity is an inexact science. However, this survey provides a great deal of useful information on gangs for law enforcement, policy makers, and the public at large.”

Dr. Dyson, of the Violence Prevention Institute, said such information is essential to targeting street gang education and violence-prevention-related efforts.

“The problem of youth violence and gang involvement is a complicated issue that has the potential to destroy the fabric of our communities and this nation,” said Dyson. “As community leaders, we must fight this plague with all available resources, starting at the grass roots level. Youth violence must be dealt with through intervention and education. If we choose not to do so, there will be a continuing cycle of despair.”

Dr. Johnson, the UMDNJ Director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, said that “no teenager is immune to the seductive power of gangs and gang membership. “

”For many young people, these often violent social structures provide a powerful response to their need to belong and be accepted,” said Dr. Johnson. “In view of this reality, we need to find more and better ways to strengthen families and strengthen communities. Stepped up enforcement efforts alone, no matter how vigorous or well-intended, will not get the job done.”

Comparison With Prior Gang Surveys

In 2001, a State Police streetgang survey found there were an estimated 7,500 gang members and nearly 300 gangs – fewer than half the number of gang members and gangs reported in the 2004 survey. However, Attorney General Harvey urged perspective when considering the degree of increase suggested by numbers reported in the 2001 and 2004 surveys.

While the newest survey results provide convincing statistical and anecdotal evidence that street gang activity is on the rise, he said, some of the stark contrast in data between the 2001 and 2004 studies may also have to do with fundamental differences in survey methodology, and in levels of police participation.

For example, the 2001 gang survey excluded from consideration any motorcycle gangs, hate or “ideology” groups and/or prison gangs. The 2004 survey more broadly defined gangs -- consistent with language drawn from the New Jersey Criminal Code -- as “three or more people who are associated in fact ... people who have a common group name, identifying sign, tattoos or other indicia of association, and who have engaged in criminal offenses while engaged in gang-related activity.”

Law enforcement participation levels were also significantly higher in the 2004 survey compared with 2001.
Three years ago, the State Police survey sample consisted of about 200 police departments chosen because one or more of their personnel had attended State-Police-sponsored gang awareness training.

In 2004, the target survey sample was expanded to include each of the 479 full-time police departments in the State. Of those, 439 responded, while 40 departments either did not reply in time, or simply did not respond.

“While it is by no means the final word on the subject, this survey is vital, because it is helping us to develop as comprehensive and accurate a picture of street gang activity as possible,” said Division of Criminal Justice Director McKoy. “Whether we are talking about targeted street gang enforcement activity, or about gang awareness and prevention programs, the first step for law enforcement is to have a reliable frame of reference.”

Said Attorney General Harvey, “I applaud the full-time municipal police departments of New Jersey , because their level of responsiveness to the survey was excellent. With relatively few exceptions, local law enforcement has demonstrated a readiness to work with us cooperatively, and candidly, to identify the scope and nature of the gang problem, which is the first step toward effectively combating it.”

Surging Violence by Gangs Targeted


Proposed task force to coordinate efforts

Sunday, September 04, 2005



Star-Ledger Staff

State and federal law enforcement agencies in New Jersey want to form a full-time task force to combat a growing gang problem authorities say is among the worst in the country.

If approved, the proposal would bring together as many as 20 agents, prosecutors and state and local officers for short but intensive investigations. The goal is to share resources and cripple gangs with large sweeps and charges under the state or federal law with the stiffest penalty.

Such cooperation already exists among the agencies, officials say, but it lacks consistency or coordination. "Right now, we're losing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Agnifilo, the newly appointed coordinator of federal anti-gang prosecutions for New Jersey . "The last two years have been really bad."

Officials are still finalizing details, but the joint effort could start later this month with a focus on Essex County , where violent street gangs have multiplied in recent years. Similar efforts would follow in places such as Trenton and Neptune , where activity from sets such as the Bloods and MS-13 has been spreading.

Violent gangs are surging across the country, taking over neighborhoods and adding members by recruiting and training in prisons. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales formed a nationwide task force of prosecutors to assess the problem and share solutions.


In New Jersey , officials blamed a spike in murders statewide two years ago on gang activity. The number of killings subsided slightly last year, but authorities say gang activity is still rising and sophisticated weapons are flooding into the state.

"The problem in Essex is among the worst in the country," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey , basing his opinion on discussions with his counterparts in other cities.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Lee Solomon, a former county prosecutor in Camden , said today's gangs are unlike traditional organized crime networks.

"They have banded together for the purpose of violence," Solomon told more than 100 agents and officers who gathered last week at Rutgers University in Newark for a private conference on the gang problem. "The (drug) business is an ancillary aspect of their existence. They're here for the purpose of violence."

The FBI has been building gang cases for years, just as local prosecutors and police have placed hundreds of members behind bars for individual crimes. But the merging of forces to attack the larger problem is something both sides recognize has benefits.

Witness intimidation and protection has been a problem in Superior Court gang prosecutions and prosecutors on that level are limited to introducing just the facts of the crime. Even if they are convicted, defendants typically serve their sentences in local prisons with fellow gang members.

Federal racketeering law allows prosecutors to introduce past criminal records and to win stiff prison terms in out-of-state prisons. "In a federal (racketeering) trial, the jury gets to know exactly who the defendant is," Assistant U.S. Attorney Serina Vash told participants at the symposium.

Federal prosecutors have brought charges against several high-profile gang sets in recent years. More than 20 members of the East Orange-based "Double ii" Bloods set are awaiting trial on racketeering charges. But Agnifilo, the lead prosecutor, said such cases are the exception.

"We're making some good cases, but it's all kind of like lightning strikes," he said.


Meanwhile, the local officers and agencies have personnel on the streets and in the prisons. They know the neighborhoods and typically are in a better position to gather intelligence and react to crimes.

"We tend to have more troops," said Carolyn Murray, first assistant Essex County prosecutor.

Murray has viewed the problem from both perspectives. She worked for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office from 1988 to 1995, left for the U.S. Attorney's Office, then returned two years ago. During her first stint as a county prosecutor, gangs were an occasional topic of concern, Murray said.

"I came back in'03 and it's not a talking point anymore," she said. "It's a reality."

Gangs Entrenched in New Jersey


Survey: Gangs entrenched

Friday, July 01, 2005


Staff Writer

It's not a new development, but it is a growing problem: Criminal street gangs have become entrenched in New Jersey , their numbers are rising and they present a serious threat to public safety.

A New Jersey State Police survey of nearly every municipal police department in the Garden State was unveiled yesterday, providing statistical teeth to and a sobering profile of how many criminal street gangs there are, their location and how they operate.

The survey indicates about 16,700 street gang members are operating in New Jersey in about 700 different gangs. The well-known Bloods, Latin Kings and Crips make up the three largest populations, and those three gangs alone make up over half, 51 percent, of the estimated statewide gang population.

The gangs infect every type of community, from urban cities like Trenton to rich suburbs like Princeton and smaller, formerly rural hubs like Hightstown. Of the 16,700-member gang population, an estimated 2,300 are under the age 15. And about 17 percent of all reported homicides in the state involve gang members.

In Mercer County , the survey says, about 900 gang members operate in 23 distinct gangs. And the county mirrors the state, with police reporting the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings most frequently.

State Attorney General Peter Harvey and state police Col. Rick Fuentes offered comments on what needs to be done to combat gangs, and two doctors who spoke with them offered a view of the gangs from outside the law enforcement community.

Choosing the gang life - or "thug life," as one called it - will only end with instances of fatal gunshot wounds, paralyzing injuries, prison terms and ruined families and communities.

"The report is out," emergency room physician Dr. Duane Dyson said at the survey's unveiling. "And I've never been more in disgust or seen more despair since the crack wars of the 1980s."

"This is a public health emergency," said Dr. Robert Johnson, director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. No teenager is immune from the grasp of street gangs, and no young person is bulletproof once they are in a gang, they said, suggesting the problem must be recognized in the education, community and health-care arenas.

"Our focus should be on prevention," said Dyson, chairman of the Violence Prevention Institute in East Orange . Emergency room physicians, Dyson said, are busy enough dealing with heart attacks and strokes.  Dyson said he would like to stop having to say to parents: "Your son has died of a gunshot wound."

There may not be a quick solution, Dyson and Johnson said, but dealing with gangs must become a statewide priority. "This took a generation to get here, and it could take a generation to turn it around," Dyson said.

Johnson said he wished he could inoculate children against gang involvement, but no such shot exists. "We need to strengthen families and strengthen communities. Stepped-up enforcement efforts alone, no matter how vigorous or well-intended, will not get the job done."

From his office down to the level of a local police department, authorities are developing programs designed to offer children alternatives to gangs, some of which are making a difference, Harvey said.

But despite the programs and the successful arrest and prosecution of gang members who commit crimes, the number of gangsters is on the rise. "New Jersey continues to have a significant problem with street gangs and related community violence," Harvey said.

Other highlights of the report, conducted in 2004 and completed by 91 percent of the 479 municipalities that have a full-time police department:

-- In 44 percent of the municipalities in which an active street gang presence was reported, gang activity was reported by police to have increased compared to the previous year.

-- In 37 percent of the municipalities reporting no street gang presence during a similar survey done in 2001, gang activity is now taking place.

-- In 39 percent of responding suburban municipalities, police reported the presence of gangs, an increase of 27 percent compared to the 2001 survey

In Mercer County , half of the 10 towns that participated in the survey reported a gang presence: Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence , Hightstown and Princeton Borough. Those reporting no gang presence were East Windsor, Hopewell Township , Pennington, Princeton Township and West Windsor . Hopewell Borough, which is patrolled by Hopewell Township police, was not surveyed, and Hamilton and Washington townships did not respond to the survey, the state police said.

Hamilton was listed in the report as the most populous municipality in the state not to participate, but a Hamilton police spokesman insisted the agency did send in the survey.

In 2003, three homicides in Mercer County were labeled as gang-related, the survey said. And four of the 10 participating departments also reported gang-related incidents in their schools: Trenton, Princeton Borough, Hightstown and Ewing .

The Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, 18th Street Gang, Five Percenters and the Pagans motorcycle gang all have multiple chapters, the survey said. But 17 gangs are listed as solo and they have a variety of names.

Some are well-documented, such as Neta, the Salvadoran gang MS-13, the Breed motorcycle gang and the White Diamonds, a Trenton gang. Other Mercer gangs include Black Top, Boon Dog Outlaws, Hava-stack, Two Guns Up, and Vatos Locos.

The state police yesterday announced one plan. Noting in the survey that many police departments report more of a gang presence but only about 25 percent have a database to track them, Fuentes said the state police would bolster its intelligence efforts and local police will have access to that information.

Fuentes has transferred 20 troopers into an intelligence unit where most will work in the Regional Intelligence and Operations Center , known as "The Rock," at the Ewing headquarters. The center, which went online in February as a pilot program, blends criminal intelligence reports and other information for officers on the street.

By August, every law enforcement officer in the state will be able to access The Rock, even as they pursue a car on the highway. The center currently includes more than 15,000 state police gang intelligence reports, and local police will be able to send intelligence they gather back into The Rock. "And that's huge, in terms of intelligence," Fuentes said. "It's going to connect the dots on gangs, and we think it's going to save lives."

Troopers Say Gangs Moving To Suburbs


Troopers say gangs moving to suburbs

Members follow money out of cities

Friday, July 01, 2005


Star-Ledger Staff

New Jersey has nearly 17,000 gang members and they are increasingly moving their violent drug trade into suburban areas that hold the prospect of more money, according to a State Police survey released yesterday.

Urban centers and the communities that surround them continue to house more than 90 percent of all gang members in the state, the survey found, but street gangs are no longer strangers in the suburbs or even in rural areas once thought to be gang-proof. The survey also claims that 691 different gangs are now operating in 143 New Jersey towns.

"The suburban clientele has been a very lucrative environment for them in terms of drug sales and other criminal enterprises," said State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes. "It's like any good business, they move to where the customers are."

The State Police conducted the gang assessment by asking New Jersey's 479 municipal police departments to gauge gang activity in their community for 2004. About 92 percent of all police departments participated, although some towns with notable gang activity such as Camden did not respond.

"Gangs exist in every one of our counties," said Attorney General Peter Harvey. "There is no community that is immune from this. The mistake that we make is to think that gangs are confined to a particular ethnic group or a particular region of this state. That is false."

More than half the state's gang members belong to three so-called "super-gangs" -- the Bloods, Latin Kings and Crips -- although a growing number are joining Hispanic gangs. They include the Mara Salavatrucha, or MS-13, a violent gang with Salvadoran roots; the 18th Street Gang, the nation's largest Mexican gang; and Ñetas, which began in Puerto Rico .

Based on the survey, State Police concluded that one-fifth of the homicides in the state are the work of gang members. State Police conducted a similar survey in 2001 that found about 7,500 gang members belonging to almost 300 separate street gangs. But officials cautioned against comparing the two because response to the initial survey was so poor -- fewer than a third of all police departments participated -- and local departments' knowledge of street gangs was lacking.

Since the initial report, Harvey and Fuentes have emphasized the need for local and county agencies to combat gangs by holding training exercises on how to recognize and gather intelligence on gang activity.

Fuentes said the number of gang members found in the 2004 survey may reflect a growing awareness of gangs among local departments rather than an explosion in gang population. Police officers are simply getting better at spotting gang activity.

"You've got police officers who are now aware of it and none of these gangs are going to be operating below the radar," Fuentes said during a news conference at which the State Police gang bureau survey was released. "And that's a good thing. Police are now going to be able to pick them off because we know who they are."

Recent examples of gangs infiltrating the suburbs include last year's arrest of four Bloods who were planning to rob a New Providence credit union located inside an A&P supermarket, and the prosecution of three Bloods in Morris County for trying to intimidate a fellow gang member while he was on the witness stand. In another high-profile case, Sayreville War Memorial High School canceled its homecoming football game after police warned of possible gang violence between Crips and Bloods factions from Newark who both thought the Middlesex County town was their territory.

On Tuesday, nine leaders of the Latin Kings were sentenced to state prison on racketeering charges related to their activities in cities like Elizabeth, Newark and Paterson as well as suburban towns like South Toms River , Beachwood and Dover .

Based on the survey, Fuentes said he transferred 20 troopers Wednesday into the Regional Intelligence Operations Center , where State Police operate a database that collects information on a wide variety of criminal activities, including those by gangs. By August, all New Jersey police officers will be able to call the intelligence center and have a trooper search the database for any information they may have on a suspect, he said.

However, Robert Johnson, director of adolescent and young adult medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said enforcement alone is not the answer to successfully battling the state's gang problem. Parents need to be more involved in their children's lives; schools need to teach coping skills so children can learn ways to deal with difficult situations; and lawmakers need to repair the downtrodden areas where the state's poor live.

"I know that's a big-ticket item," said Johnson, who chaired a National Institutes of Health panel on gang violence last October. "For many young people, these often violent social structures provide a powerful response to their need to belong and be accepted. We need to find more and better ways to strengthen families and strengthen communities."

New Jersey Gang Numbers On The Rise


Associated Press Writer

June 30, 2005, 5:13 PM EDT


TRENTON, N.J. -- Nearly 17,000 New Jersey youths belong to one of 700 street gangs in the state, and they cut across socio-economic and geographic boundaries, officials said Thursday as they released a survey on gang activity.

The survey was conducted by state law enforcement officials who wanted a better handle on the scope of gangs statewide; it paints a stark picture of worsening gang activity in the state.

"It's not a single town, it's every town," said state police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes, former head of the state police street gang unit. "The gang unit has responded to the most affluent communities in New Jersey ... No town is immune."

Some 91 percent of communities with full-time police departments responded to the survey, which asked local officials to quantify gang activity in their municipality for 2004.

Among the findings:

Gang membership is up from an estimated 7,500 members in 300 gangs reported in a similar survey in 2001, but response to that survey was limited to 200 police departments.

-- 28 New Jersey gangs have 100 or more members.

-- 22 gangs have female membership of 25 percent or higher.

-- The most dangerous gangs are the Bloods (4,000 New Jersey members); Latin Kings (2,345 members); and the Crips (2,100).

-- One-fifth of all murders in the state are gang-related.

-- Gang activity in the suburbs is on the rise: 39 percent of suburban towns reported the presence of gangs, an increase of 27 percent over 2001.

-- An estimated 2,300 gang members are under age 15.

"Too many young people are being maimed or killed in gang-related violence, and too many innocent citizens are being impacted when that violence takes place on the street, which it often does," said Attorney General Peter C. Harvey.

Harvey said surveys like this one are valuable in helping officials understand the extent of the gang problem, even if individual police departments don't always report data accurately. Meanwhile, Fuentes said he's reassigned 20 state troopers to keep tabs on street gangs, quadrupling the number of investigators in the unit.

Dr. Robert Johnson, chairman of pediatrics and director of adolescent and young adult medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said boot camps, scare tactics and warehousing young gang members in adult prisons don't lessen the problem, and may make it worse.  Strengthening parent-child bonds, boosting children's self-esteem and providing poor children with jobs and recreational activities, however, lessen the chances a teenager will join a gang, he said.

Officials said teens often become interested in gangs when they lack support at home or in school. Fuentes said even the terminology gang members use points to their replacing stable home environments.

For example, Fuentes said, gangs don't refer to themselves as gangs. "They call themselves families," he said.

New Jersey Gangs Growing


New Jersey Gangs Growing

Most are based in urban centers, but "no town is immune," the state police superintendent said.

Inquirer Staff Writers

Gangs and gang populations, and their attending violence, appear to be on the rise in New Jersey , according to a state police survey released yesterday.

The 2004 survey showed an estimated 700 gangs and nearly 17,000 members. About one in five homicides in the state is gang-related, according to state police statistics.

The home turf of 70 percent of the gangs is in the state's urban centers, according to the survey. And almost 60 percent of them are home-grown cells of national "supergangs," such as the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings.

Twenty-eight gangs in the state have 100 or more members, accounting for more than half the state's gang members.  Law enforcement officials said police used a number of clues, including graffiti, clothing and hand signs, to detect and track gang activity.

Ninety-one percent of the 479 municipalities with full-time police departments responded to the survey. Camden, Maple Shade in Burlington County , and Franklin Township in Gloucester County were among the 10 most populous communities that did not participate.

Camden Police Chief Edwin Figueroa said he was not sure why his department had not participated and would look into it. Officials from the other communities could not be reached for comment.

Law enforcement officials said gangs were most prevalent in the northern part of the state, where the 20 detectives of the state's gang task force concentrated their efforts.

But the state police superintendent, Col. Rick Fuentes, who once headed the gang unit, said the problem was widespread. Cities including Camden are gang hubs, he said, but gang activity "follows the line of profit into the suburbs."

Thirty-nine percent of suburban municipalities reported a gang presence, an increase of 21 percent from 2001, when the state police surveyed 200 police departments.

Police departments in 37 percent of the municipalities that reported no gang activity in 2001 now see it, according to the survey.

"It's not a single town. It's every town," Fuentes said at a news conference in Trenton . "The gang unit has responded to the most affluent communities in New Jersey ... . No town is immune."

Because of differences in methodology and the levels of police participation, the two surveys could not be fairly compared. The 2001 survey found fewer than half the members, an estimated 7,500, and gangs as the 2004 survey.

But the 2001 survey did not cover hate groups or motorcycle and prison gangs. The 2004 survey also more broadly defined gangs as three or more people who have a group name, identifying sign, tattoos or other indications of association, and have committed crimes while engaged in gang-related activity.

I think a lot of these numbers were here in 2001," Fuentes said.

It is awareness of the problem that has continued to grow.

 Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said gangs were recruiting all types, starting young. The largest concentration of members are ages 18 to 24, he said.

"This is not a gender-specific problem," he said. "We're talking black kids, white kids, Asian kids, Latino kids."

The survey found that those youths tend to stick together. About 76 percent of the gangs are made up of members from the same racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Lee Haberman, a spokesman for the North Jersey-based Violence Prevention Institute, said his group educated schoolchildren on the dangers of getting involved in gangs.

"It's scary," said Haberman, who attended the news conference. "We ask the kids, 'How many of you know people involved in gangs?' And all their hands go up. These are seventh and eighth graders."

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey this week signed a bill to create a 26-member Gangland Security Task Force to examine how to redirect the negative activities of adult and youth gangs.

East Orange Board of Education Addresses Gang Violence


Submitted by Dr. Alexis Colander
Director of Educational Support Services & Parent Relations

The Violence Prevention Institute, Inc. was contracted in September, 2004 by the Board of Education to provide programs that enhance the decision making process of middle school students by educating them about the medical, legal and emotional consequences of gang related violence by utilizing primary and secondary prevention and intervention strategies.

The Violence Intervention Program, which is the flagship program for the Violence Prevention Institute, explores the myths and realities of guns in the hands of teenagers. Presented by a team of police, medical and legal representatives, the program seeks to show a more realistic view of gun injuries, illegal actions as defined by the legal system, and the resulting consequences, with an emphasis on firearms in the hands of minors.  The objective is to build safe and healthy communities, free from gun violence and gang activity.

The Violence Prevention Institute, Inc. is a non-profit organization.   Duane J. Dyson, MD, FAAEM is the President and CEO. Dr. Dyson is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who has obtained numerous academic appointments, participated in the development of two Emergency Medicine Residency Programs and has been the Director of Emergency Services and Vice President of Medical Affairs at East Orange General Hospital. Dr. Dyson also serves on numerous other non-profit boards that are dedicated to education, opportunity, social change and economic empowerment.

The Violence Prevention Institute will provide the Violence Intervention Program to all students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in the East Orange School District during the Academic year 2004/2005.  In addition, the Violence Prevention Institute will provide ongoing special programs that address community and teacher awareness of the increasing problem of youth related violence and gang awareness. This will be coupled with programs that address additional strategies to reduce violence and promote self-awareness and enhance skills related to positive development in high school youth.

The initial presentation of the program, conducted within a single class period, is carefully designed as an interactive experience for presenters and students.  Teams consisting of a physician and a police officer use a slide presentation to discuss the legal and medical consequences of gun possession and use. The presentation includes examples of historical and present day realities regarding the dangers of gang involvement in our communities.  The presentation is formatted as case scenarios supported by actual stories of the subsequent physical, emotional and legal outcomes of the incidents.

Through various scenarios, the program provides alternatives for self-protection that are safer than firearms (such as alerting the system, telling someone in authority, a parent, teacher, etc.), discussion on the reality of arrest and felony conviction including loss of freedom and choice (voting, financial assistance for college education, employment, clothes, food, activity, and friends), and resources that are available for conflict or crisis situations, (conflict resolution for parents and teens working with law enforcement).

During the past several months that the Violence Prevention Institute has been operating in the school system, it has presented the program to 633 students at the Healy Middle School and 132 students at the Truth Middle School . All students in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade in the school district will have been exposed to the program by the end of the present school year. The Violence Prevention Institute will conduct ongoing student contact over a 3 month, 6 month and 12 month period to reinforce the initial lectures that are being learned by the students.  Attorney General Peter Harvey, who was the initial proponent of this program, will be conducting student lectures in East Orange personally along with the Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, East Orange Police Director Jose Cordero and many other respected law enforcement officials.

The Violence Prevention Institute in early January sent approximately 275 students from around the district to a Nets basketball game sponsored by the Nets organization at the Institute’s request. The Institute has also obtained a large grant from PSE&G to provide each 6th, 7th, and 8th grader in East Orange with the New York Times best seller “The Pact” and other motivational and instructional book’s to provide positive thought process’s and reinforcement.

The Violence Prevention Institute is working directly with the East Orange Board of Education, the Office of the Mayor of the City of East Orange, the East Orange Police Department, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Juvenile Justice Commission and many corporate partners on the development and implementation of many new programs for East Orange students and community.  The Institute is also working with other organizations to provide positive mentorship and gang reduction strategies to improve the quality of life in the City of East Orange .