"Obviously the gang problem in this county has not gone away and is still a top priority as far as I am concerned," said County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.
The new task force will be comprised of 11 members - five detectives from the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office including the commander of the new unit, Lt. Keith Stith; two officers from the Hudson County Sheriff's Office, two State Police troopers, one member of the Hudson County Division of Corrections, and one from the NJ Division of Parole. The unit will be based in the county's Public Safety office on Duncan Avenue on the west side of Jersey City.
DeFazio said this anti-gang unit is an expanded group from a previous two-man team that worked out of the Prosecutor's Office.
He said the task force will be working with the various municipal police departments in the county whenever there is a homicide that is gang-related.
The towns of Jersey City and Union City in particular have had to deal with the proliferation of organized gangs such as the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, DDP (Dominicans Don't Play), and MS-13, as well as other scattered "wannabe" gangs.
DeFazio said the new, enlarged task force will not do actual investigating but also gathering of gang intelligence.
He said having members of the task force culled from various law enforcement agencies will help improve the relationship between agencies when it comes to sharing information on gang activity.
"In the past, there hasn't been the kind of cooperation in terms of sharing information, and we want it to get better," DeFazio said.
He said once the new task force they gather the information, they will be able to put it in a database known as GangTrak that keeps records on all gangs, gang members, weapons, gang contacts, vehicles, and cross references between the different categories.
10 out of 12 towns
And there will be plenty of activity for the taskforce to gather information if the 2007 Gang Survey done by the New Jersey State Police is any indication. It is a survey of responses from 562 New Jersey's 566 municipalities regarding gang presence or absence in their communities.
Among the findings of the survey was that in 2007, 10 of 12 Hudson County municipalities reported gang activity.
Jersey City was the worst offender in the county, with 11 gang-related homicides and serving as a base for eight of the top 14 most prevalent gangs in the state, according to the NJ State Police.
The report also found that Hudson County has 89 percent of its land area located in municipalities reporting the presence of gangs, and that 97 percent of the county's population lives in municipalities reporting a gang presence.
The gangs operating in the Hudson County were found to be most active besides violent crime in these major criminal activities: drug trafficking, residential burglary, vehicle theft, and shoplifting.
But DeFazio downplayed the gang problem in Hudson County as out of control.
"I don't think Hudson County has the kind of the problem you see in other counties," DeFazio said. "There is a diverse ethnic population in this county, and there are many economic opportunities that offer people an alternative to gang activity."
He also credits all the Police Departments in the county as well as the Hudson County Sheriff's Office for being very "vigilant" in dealing with gang activity.
To read Ricardo Kaulessar's 2005 story, "The gangs of Jersey City: Bloods, Latin Kings, and 'R.O.C.," click on http://www.zwire.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=15110240&BRD=1291&PAG=461&dept_id=523584&rfi=8
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