Gang activity continues to be a major concern in the Garden State, even in wealthy suburban communities.

According to State Police Lt. Jay Mandziuk, who heads up the Gangs and Organized Crime unit, law enforcement officials on the local, county, state and federal levels are working to crack down on gangs and the crimes they commit. Dozens of gangs, with thousands of members, are operating in all 21 New Jersey counties.

“You may see in the inner cities your traditional Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings. But as you move into the suburbs and rural areas you’ll see them as well. You’ll also start to see the outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in those areas,” he said.

“You have your traditional Hells Angels, your Pagans, your 69’ers your Outlaws — they’re all operating within the state.”

Not too long ago, certain gangs controlled different areas of the state, but Mandziuk said that’s usually not the case anymore.

“You’ll have your larger gangs like 793 Bloods and then you’ll have your hybrid gangs which are in local neighborhoods, so it’s constantly in flux,” he said. “It’s constantly morphing and it’s hard to keep tabs on a specific group’s numbers.”

He said the criminal activity associated with gangs is varied and widespread.

“They’re involved in everything: they’ll do credit card fraud, auto theft, narcotics trafficking and distribution, weapons — they run the gamut. Whatever makes them money they’ll be involved in.”

He also noted many gangs still routinely terrorize different neighborhoods and communities.

“They’ll commit assaults, homicides, stabbings — they’re still violent. It just becomes a question of is it a gang-motivated violence or a gang-related violence?”

He explained “motivated” would mean on behalf of the gang, whereas “related” would refer to an act of violence committed by a gang member for his own personal reasons.

Sometimes gangs get along in Jersey, and sometimes they don’t.

“You’ll have gangs that will war against one another and you’ll have those that work together, it just depends again on what group. What may transpire in Newark may not be the case in Bridgeton.”

He explained camaraderie and cooperation will depend on the players involved.

“Two of them may have grown up together and one became a Crips and the other became a Latin King, so that could work,” he said.

He noted gang activity can pose a threat to communities in different ways.

“Obviously, drug distribution is always a threat to the citizens of New Jersey whether it’s through the health aspect or the violence that might stem from it,” he said

One major obstacle to controlled gang activity in New Jersey is fear.

He said the gang retaliation sometimes makes it hard to get witnesses to talk about gang activity, “so it’s hard to say any one particular murder on any particular day was part of a gang initiation, for instance.”

Nevertheless, disrupting gang activity remains a major focus for the State Police.

“We have all three gang units in North, Central and South that focus strictly on gang activity and organized crime groups,” he said.

“In addition, crime suppression units are sent into areas with the most violence to assist local law enforcement in getting control of a situation. Our war against gangs in ongoing and we won’t stop."

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