Where are New Jersey's gangs? You might as well ask where they aren't

Illegal drugs are fueling gang activity throughout the state, according to the state's top law enforcement official. The most recent New Jersey State Police survey shows them in every county.

“Gangs certainly have been a problem for a long time and still are a problem. You see different gang activity (and) different gangs arise,” acting State Attorney General John Hoffman said Wednesday as he took questions on the topic.

Hoffman said now he’s seeing a lot of inner-gang fighting that police need to be aware of.

He also said getting to at-risk kids before and even after they join gangs is a key. His office has helped fund and organize municipal planning boards in nine cities.

“They bring together law enforcement, community leaders and social service providers and the focus really is on at-risk youths, juvenile delinquency, identifying who’s at risk, identifying their gang affiliation and then trying to get to them,” he said.

Where are New Jersey's gangs?

There is also an anti-crime curriculum to deal with gangs and the state’s gang problem. It is taught through the Juvenile Justice Commission to help young people who have already committed a crime or crimes.

Unfortunately, he said, it’s not hard to find a gang in the Garden State.

“Gangs traditionally have been more prevalent in the inner cities. Certainly now you have tentacles that reach into the suburbs. No Area is immune to some of the problems that state is facing,” Hoffman noted.

If gangs have not come to your town, drugs have helped ensure kids from your area will go to the gangs, Hoff man said. The AG said he saw that firsthand on a ride-along with Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson roughly a year ago.

“You could see the sort zombie-like suburban kids getting off trains at 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. to wander around Camden. You see the problem coming in and you can see the problem going out and it’s fairly stark,” Hoffman said.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.