Gang activity is blamed for “a spike in homicides” last year, says New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey as he starts a new campaign to help parents keep their children out of gangs. The Newark Star-Ledger reports that Harvey is scheduled to unveil a new anti-gang initiative today. He said the number of homicides last year was up from 2002, when there were 341 murders, the same as in 2001. Murders in New Jersey have been increasing since 1999 when they hit their lowest number, 287, since 1967.
Harvey said last year’s increase “got us concerned.” Even more troubling was how many of the victims were in their early twenties. Victims aged 20 to 24 accounted for 21 percent of all murders in 2003 — up from 18 percent the year before — and “about a quarter of the new homicides,” Harvey said. His new initiative will feature an educational video to alert parents to the dangers posed by gangs and the warning signs that their children might be involved. “We hope that parents and young people will watch it together,” he said. Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for Harvey, said parents need to know that gangs are not confined to cities. “They are recruiting in suburbia,” Loriquet said. He called the video “the wake-up call that parents need to know that gangs are out there and these are the warning signs they need to look for.”