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Gang Problem Increasing In New Jersey [AUDIO]

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

Would you know if your child was involved in gang activity? New Jersey police departments say kids as young as 9 years old are being recruited and its happening in all 21 counties.

Gangs used to be found only in big cities like Camden, Trenton and Newark, but today they are invading communities of all sizes, said Sgt. John Zell, a member of the Burlington County Sheriff’s department in Mount Holly, where a free gang awareness seminar took place Thursday.

During a roughly hour long slide-show presentation, Zell told parents and members of the community how to identify someone in a gang.

“Many gang members display disinterest in family and social functions. They tend to be secretive and paranoid. Most gang members are involved in some type of drug activity.”

But it goes beyond just attitude and behavior, said Zell. Its easy to spot a gang member based on their clothing and appearance.

“Gang members today use discreet signs that could be a pair of shoelaces or a baseball hat with certain colors. Designer clothing is another way of showing who they are…Calvin Klein clothing is worn by the Bloods because to them CK stands for ‘Crip Killer.”

Sgt. Zell said most gang members share the same hair colors, hair styles and shaving habits. “They may shave their heads or beards a certain way or roll up a pant leg to the left or to the right on purpose.”

Janice from Edgewater Park, said she was blown away that gang activity is happening right in her own backyard. “I thought I was in a safe area…and you just can’t be too cautious nowadays.”

Sgt. Zell said there are three goals that parents should follow to reduce the impact of gangs.

“First, raise your gang awareness. Figure out the fads that your children are following that may have a connection to a gang at school.”

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

Second, supervise your children. “Know your child’s friends and what he or she is doing with them. Check their facebook pages and make parameters for them on the internet.”

Lastly, get involved. “Take an active interest in your child’s school. Ask them questions and get to know their teachers. When you are more involved with them, your child is going to open up to you more.”

He says if you notice your child is dressing in gang colors, drawing gang signs or withdrawing from the family, make sure you speak with your child’s school.

“Keep a watchful eye, check out your neighbors, pay attention to graffiti and street signs and report any gang-related graffiti to your local police department.”

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