Newark has had gangs for decades, but they were long thought to be just neighborhood kids who sometimes fought, not highly organized or violent like the Bloods and Crips of Los Angeles fame. The Newark Star-Ledger says that Bloods and Crips, or at least people claiming membership in those gtangs, are drawing attention. Also drawing notice are several predominantly Hispanic gangs.
Detective Sgt. Anthony Manzo said a California man arrested in Newark on a warrant in September goes by the nickname “King Smiley” and was in town to recruit for the Latin Kings.
Police say Newark has no gang problem of Los Angeles’ significance. The number of homicides in the city dropped 35 percent last year from 2002 and no murders have had gang rivalry identified as the motive. The number of assaults rose 21 percent, but police have not attributed that to gangs.
Still, Police Director Joseph Santiago formed a unit last year in part to monitor the gang situation. Since then, a better picture of the city’s gang culture has been emerging. The police have identified the Bloods and Crips, along with the Latin Kings and two other well-known Hispanic gangs, Neta and MS-13. Officials are not sounding alarms but the presence of these gangs concerns police and educators, as well as members of the general public.