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Monday, 9 February 2009

Bloods street gang in Lakewood, authorities blamed gang members for killing the mother of a murder witness's girlfriend last year.

Bloods street gang in Lakewood, authorities blamed gang members for killing the mother of a murder witness's girlfriend last year.Five alleged members of the Bloods have been indicted for that killing, including two men who were ultimately found guilty of the initial murder."By developing intelligence and information about the criminal activities of gangs, we've been able to make arrests and prosecute the entities that are committing these crimes," said Deputy Chief Michael Mohel, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.Still the Bloods, as well as other gangs such as the El Salvadoran MS-13, continue to pose a threat. The FBI assessment said there may be as many as 2,500 gang members active in Ocean County.
In Monmouth County, officials have identified more than 500 gang members since launching a task force in 2007, Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin said, and found while the Bloods present the most serious threat, other groups like the Latin Kings also have set up shop in the area."These groups are committing the traditional crimes like drug trafficking, gun violence, armed robbery and assault. But we've also noticed through our intelligence they're becoming more sophisticated and getting into identity fraud and financial crimes," he said.While law enforcement has seen success going after gangs — Attorney General Anne Milgram touted more than 1,800 arrests and $4 million in drugs seized at a December news conference — efforts that focus on education and awareness also are under way.A member of the State Police's gang unit visited with Lakewood teachers early this month for a seminar on local groups and the warning signs that students may be associating with them.
Presentations like that have become common, said State Police spokesman Sgt. Julian Castellanos, and troopers are now meeting with school districts and civic groups on a regular basis.Several similar workshops have been held for teachers in Lakewood, where raising awareness is part of an ongoing response to gangs that already includes the use of security cameras and a dress code, instituted in part to curb the proliferation of students wearing gang colors.Still, however, the district recognizes that some students identify themselves with gangs, Schools Superintendent Eugenia Lawson said, as evidenced by a recent trend of using rosary beads to signify a gang affiliation in place of more tradition clothing."Kids are resilient. They're going to find different ways to do what they're going to do," Lawson said.
In Brick, where Police Chief Nils R. Bergquist Jr. has authorized a detective to work full time with Ocean County's gang task force, gang members still turn to drugs as their main source of income, but now also are known to commit acts of extortion and identity theft, Bergquist said."We're far from the first suburb to be affected. Nobody is immune to it," he said.Brick officers are expected to begin a new program next year for sixth-grade students that will follow the model of its Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which focuses on drug awareness for children, but instead spotlight gangs."We believe it's probably the most effective and productive avenue, but we still need to have the enforcement end and get out in front before it grows to the point where it was in some communities throughout the state," Bergquist said.


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