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February 1, 2011

Gangs are active in 45 percent of New Jersey’s municipalities -- 254 of 566 towns -- according to the recently released NJ State Police 2010 report Gangs in New Jersey.

Gangs exist in towns big and small, north and south, wealthy and poor, rural, urban and suburban. Indeed, they exist in every county in the state. And although the report indicated that the number of gangs in New Jersey had reached a "state of equilibrium," one-third of municipalities did say gang activity had increased over the past 12 months.

The gangs most often cited as having a presence in towns were the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings, in that order. However, the report said police have identified 244 distinct gang subgroups. Just because various subgroups fell under a larger umbrella -- for instance, two distinct gangs that consider themselves Bloods -- didn't mean they were any less hostile to one another than to other gangs. Indeed, the report cited that in New Jersey one of the most serious conflicts has become one Blood set against a rival Blood set.

The good news: Very few gangs espoused extremist political or religious ideology, and most were not involved in much violent criminal activity. By definition, however, the police said gangs were criminal networks. Typically, they were active in drug dealing, theft and, in some instances, aggravated assault. Drug distribution included heroin, as well as marijuana and cocaine. And while many towns were minimally affected by the gangs located within their jurisdiction, there were a significant number of gangs that have had a substantial negative impact on citizens due to the breadth and intensity of their criminal enterprises, according to the report.

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