NJ Gang Problem Increasing In Cities, Suburbs [AUDIO]
There are nearly 35,000 gang members in New Jersey and 45 percent of them are kids. A state street gang expert says the problem is increasing from the cities to the shore.
From Paterson to Point Pleasant, Newark to Neptune, gangs are on the rise in New Jersey.
"They're branching out, moving out, they can make more money in the suburbs and they can make more money in the rural areas."
He said gang members are targeting more children than ever before.
"Kids as young as seven years-old are being recruited" said Lt. Edwin Torres, NJ State Commission of Investigation, Street Gangs Unit.
"Its disturbing, we are seeing gangs present in all 21 counties" he said.
Torres says with diminishing resources, its becoming much harder to track.
"I've heard from gang members, who say they know when a police officer is about to be laid off and they make plans around that, they sometimes know more than we do and they are becoming so much more sophisticated that they've fallen below the radar."
Roughly half of all New Jersey towns with gangs reported their presence in schools, according to a State Police 2010 gang survey.
"We know they are there, we see the graffiti, we see the clothing, the gang signs on social media sites. Its easy for us to watch what's going on at a particular school, but sometimes its harder to get to the root of the problem."
How do you talk to your kids about gangs? Torres says its about community partnership, with law enforcement, educators and parents working in a collaborative effort.
"Parents need to supervise their children, they should ask questions about their day and monitor their behavior at home, what colors are they wearing, who are they talking to."