As heroin use keeps increasing in New Jersey, gang activity continues to flourish in the cities, the suburbs and even in rural areas, but law enforcement officials are fighting back.

(Scott Olson, Getty Images News)

"It's going to take a while to rid the state of the gang problem, but progress is being made," said acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman.

He said for the first time in a long while officials are starting to see gang-consolidation activity, which is significant.

"Some of them actually work together, which I think indicates that some of the resources that they have and the individuals that are participating are starting to dwindle," Hoffman said. "We look at that as some good progress."

He said gang activity remains a major challenge to law enforcement, because gangs systematically engage in threats, beatings and even murders as part of their everyday activities.

"You see the violence, both in the operations and in the initiation," Hoffman said. "There's clearly a culture of violence in gangs. Some members talk about how it's beaten into them from day one that violence is going to be a way that they're going to further their aims, and you certainly see that in the operations."

To make headway against gangs, Hoffman believes significant changes must be made in the communities where gang members are living.

We have to get them support, get them the potential for jobs, get them the education they need," Hoffman said. "We have to offer alternatives, and that's why we're trying to attack a lot of these problems from multi-disciplinary perspectives."

Hoffman said this means going into areas where gangs have a significant presence, and trying to "speak with the people, speak with their families, their support groups, and find out what kind of alternatives will get them off the streets. It's going to be education, it's going to be awareness and it's going to be opportunity."

He also stressed it means teaching children that if you join a gang, you'll most likely end up in prison or dead.

In addition to education, Hoffman said a strong law enforcement component is essential.

"We're going to need people to know," he said, "that if they're bad on the street using guns, we're going to come after them hard."