Last week, southern New Jersey’s gang problem exploded into public view with the arrest of 10 members of a Bloods set for a string of violent and ruthless crimes in Trenton, reports the Trenton Times. In the first article in a series, the newspaper reports that law enforcement officials say the level of violence reflects a statewide problem with violent gangs that have taken their cues from West Coast gangsters. With an estimated 17,000 gang members statewide, state Attorney General Peter Harvey says gangs are the No. 1 crime problem in New Jersey. A survey by the state police shows that at least 17 percent of the 406 homicides in New Jersey in 2003 involved gang members. The true percentage could be much higher because a third of the homicides that year occurred in municipalities that did not respond to the survey or did not answer the gang question.
With new incidents occurring very day, police are meeting, toting new hardware, spying, and swooping in to make busts. Schools are training teachers to be alert for gang hand signs, gang colors, and gang graffiti. Starting next month, the Trenton school district will weave a behavior-modification component into lessons at eight schools. Called the Phoenix curriculum, it aims to help gang members take an honest look at their actions and quit the thug life.