Police say nearly 35,000 gang members operate in the Garden State and nearly half are children under the age of 15.
Law enforcement experts say it is a growing problem and as widespread from the city streets Newark and Camden to the sandy shores of Long Branch and Seaside Heights.
The problem, police say, is that they are branching-out, recruiting younger members to increase their membership and the suburbs are prime pickings.
“Kids as young as 7 years old are being recruited.” said Lt. Edwin Torres, New Jersey State Commission of Investigation Street Gangs Unit according to NJ101.5.
Torres adds gangs are in 21 counties throughout New Jersey, but with limited resources he says it is 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.”
According to a New Jersey State Police 2010 gang survey, roughly half of all New Jersey towns with gangs reported a presence near school districts.
Municipalities which reported one or more gang-related incidents in their schools were asked to specify the frequency with which gang-related incidents occurred.
Overall, the display of gang indicia including hand signs, logos or clothing constituted the most commonly cited type of gang-related incidents in local schools. Vandalism, drug sales, assault, and gang recruitment were also reported.
The Bloods are the gang most frequently mentioned by respondents, accounting for almost a quarter of all responses.
The Latin Kings are usually the second most frequently mentioned gang, accounting for 9 percent of responses.
The Crips, 18th Street, MS-13 and the Pagans all accounted for four to five percent of responses, and the Warlocks, about three percent.
Police say in order to combat the growing gang activity in the state, a collaborative effort must be in place between parents, teachers and community leaders in every municipality—even the towns that do not believe they have a problem.
Keeping the lines of communication open between students, teachers and parents as well as monitoring behavior at home as well as in school can often detect a problem before it escalates.