Tag Archive: gangs

Saving New Jersey’s children three zip codes at a time

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield blog. – Promoted by Rosi.

Yesterday the mayors of New Jersey’s three largest cities, Ras Baraka of Newark, Jose Torres of Paterson and Steven Fulop of Jersey City, announced a bold move to collaborate on reducing violent crime in all three cities.

The proposal evolved from the Passaic River Corridor Initiative along Route 21, which has involved as many as 80 municipalities sharing police intelligence, according to Tom O’Reilly, the head of the Police Institute at Rutgers University. State authorities have said the program has led to hundreds of arrests.

But sharing police officers among three large cities that are not adjacent to one another while also combining social services is “sort of a first,” O’Reilly said. “They are challenging the traditional ways of thinking,” he said of the mayors. “The idea that three mayors have cut across bureaucratic lines is the first step.”

Quote of the Day: “That’s why these people are in Jail”

Somehow I missed this one from the testimony of Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan before the Senate Budget Committee last Thursday when asked about gang activity in NJ prisons:

“do we have a gang problem? Yes. Do we have a violence problem? Yes. Do we have a drug problem? Yes. That’s why these people are in jail! Are there gang members in prison? Absolutely yes, but are they in control of the prison? Absolutely not!”

Despite Lanigan’s statements to the contrary, a 2009 report from the State Commission of Investigation came out just a year ago called Gangland behind Bars talking about how and why gangs thrive in NJ prisons. He’s back up testifying on Monday before the Assembly Budget committee, so we’ll see what he has to say about the situation to them, as he’ll probably be asked more questions about this.  

Brick City, Second Night: It’s a Battle

Residents of Newark and people tuned to Sundance Channel all over the country watched the second episode of Forest Whitaker’s 5-night documentary about the seismic shifts going on in New Jersey’s largest city. West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, a member of the Blue Jersey community, was watching, too, and this column’s a running commentary of last night’s film, which includes the emotionally-charged romance between Jayda, community leader and member of the Bloods, and Creep, community leader and member of the Crips. Tonight 10pm is episode 3. – – – Promoted by Rosi

Tonight, a young man starts off the episode after asking Mayor Booker for a job during a late night “curfew drive” we electeds in Newark do periodically, by stating what the overwhelming majority of our good, energetic and hungry for success young people feel much too often: “I’m tired of this sh#@.”

The two questions we are asked the most in Newark is, can you get me a job, and can you find me a place to live, basics many of us take for granted. The myth is that jobs vanished from Newark in the late ’60s and early ’70s due to the Newark Rebellion and the racial overtones that rippled from that tragedy.  The truth is that Newark, like most Northeastern “Rust Belt” urban centers, began losing manufacturing jobs to automation and blue collar industries out West slowly since the ’40s and ’50s.   Before we can create jobs, the infrastructure and foundation for job creation and retention has to be created and you see some of that in this episode with our Port Newark Initiative, plans to update a city MasterPlan that has not been updated fully since 1978, and marketing our resources to industries because it is cheaper to build and buy in Newark than NYC or even Jersey City, Newark is the next frontier.

You met Ali Muslim, a man built like Job from the Bible.  After having served his sentence and changing his life (he worked his way up from being a laborer because former Mayor Sharpe James gave him a chance – a reason why the former Mayor is still so beloved in our town despite his conviction), he lost his son to violence in 2006 and in this episode another family member he also raised.  How does a man deal with his anger, pain, hurt, and loss after turning his life around?  Most of us could not forgive much less go on.  And he does so without leaving Newark, he stays, he endures and he fights.  He does not give up.  He is a brick. And brick by brick, Newark grows, rebounds, and we build upon each other.

You see Creep trying to hold his family together in his best Michael Keaton impression from the movie “Mr. MOM,” for you ’80s movie junkies like myself, but you also see Jayda’s step mom, Dave Kerr the indomitable leader of Integrity House – recent recipient of a highly publicized financial contribution from Oprah Winfrey – King Sau and Earl “Street Doctor” Best joining together to fight alongside her.  I think we do this more in Newark than any other place I know. Elected officials, community activists, churches, community based organizations, etc. all band together at different times to help each other . I think this is why we can fight so hard against each other, but still not hate each other and continue striving together.  It is also why everyone in Newark knows everyone from Newark and maybe why we are so xenophobic about “outsiders.”

You see the catch 22 of fighting against violent crime as the Police Director changes the culture of attacking it:  as we dramatically knock down shootings and murders, robberies, burglaries and crimes like prostitution go up, which you heard from a resident at a community meeting as she tells the Mayor, “You have let me down.” Welcome to an elected’s average day in Newark.

Personal plug, you see our new West Ward Abandoned Property Initiative in which we build new housing, rehabilitate bad housing stock, demolish eyesores and construct parks and gardens, expand community centers and create a community clinic within a school – all done by local developers with Newark workers (and it represents my lone cameo in the series).  In addition, Jon Bon Jovi building affordable housing with assistance from our Governor Jon Corzine.  

And all of this as we battle a structural deficit in our city budget built by years of rising costs and inaction by the last Administration to increase revenues and lower costs, in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Depression in America.  Stay tuned to Part 3.

No one cares that Gangs control Billion dollar prison system?

Early this week the State Commission of Investigation released a 96 page report of a  two year probe of the Department of Corrections and the gang problem in the prison system. What they found was upsetting and chilling. Despite huge successes by law enforcement  in getting gang members locked up and put in jail the gangs simply have used the prison system as a ” corporate headquarters” to meet and continue their crime enterprises.

The Billion Dollar Department of Corrections has failed.

What is more astonishing is that absolutely no one cares! This scathing report was issued and neither the Governor , Legislators, or even the Department has addressed the allegations.

My question is simple. Has everyone just given up in the battle against violent street gangs in this State?

The report is long and I have attached a link and a brief summary pulled from the report.

Since no one in government cares about reading it I thought maybe a concerned taxpayer or so on this site might find it interesting and upsetting.  


Brief summary from report:

The State Commission of Investigation has found that burgeoning numbers of gang affiliated

inmates today increasingly exploit systemic weaknesses to organize and thrive inside

prison walls.

They communicate widely with cohorts both inside and outside of prison via

cellular phones and other means, and they readily secure, use and deal in contraband, including

illegal narcotics. They carry out illicit financial transactions and launder money through an

official system of inmate accounts.

They extort fellow inmates and their families. They corrupt

corrections personnel, including custody officers and civilian staff. Together, these

circumstances enable them to nurture and advance violent criminal enterprises while

incarcerated, and their ability to operate in this fashion raises the specter of greater violence,

not just inside the prisons, but once they return to the outside world.

Organized Crime exploiting NJ prison gaps to set up strongholds

The State Commission on Investigation has been looking into the NJ Department of Corrections and what they have found is disturbing:

“Organized crime, as we know it here in the 21st century, has established a series of operational outposts – if not outright strongholds – within the very walls of our state prisons,” said W. Cary Edwards, chairman of the State Commission of Investigation and a former New Jersey attorney general.

That statement was made at a hearing and this is what the SCI said in their press release announcing the testimony:

The hearing is part of a wide-ranging and unprecedented investigation under way by the SCI into the growth, proliferation and increasing sophistication of organized criminal gangs in New Jersey. The investigation is statewide in scope. Ultimately, the Commission intends to issue a comprehensive public report incorporating recommendations for legislative and administrative reforms.

More on what was discovered:

The investigation found that the Corrections Department lacked numerous proper procedures for monitoring inmates’ visitations, for watching over their mail and phone communications or staying abreast of the inmates’ financial issues. The list went on.

Some guards even wore gang-member tattoos or were apparent sympathizers, employing Bloods code words, according to the testimony.

The APP Capitol Quickies blog focused on the importance of cell phones in the process:

Cell phones are banned in the New Jersey prisons. But they apparently abound there. Friends, family and compromised guards sneak them in, witnesses told an SCI hearing this week.  But consider what a cell phone enables an inmate to accomplish. The prisoner can maintain contact with the outside world, staying on top of changes in a gang’s hierarchy.

A prisoner, depending on rank in a gang, can give or accept orders.   The inmate can manage drug deals, or delve into other contraband, such as more cell phones.  And a prisoner can actually make money on the cell phone by renting it out – by the minutes – to other inmates.

The SCI isn’t trying to place blame per say, but solve what is a large and growing problem.   They have worked in tandem with the Department of Corrections to conduct this investigation is seems:

“We had nothing but the highest level of cooperation from the department,” Edwards said of the Department of Corrections and the SCI effort to write its report, adding the unions too were helpful. “… It is not part of our mission to blame people.”

Corrections Commissioner George Hayman issued a statement saying, “The NJDOC has worked to ensure a full and free flow of information to SCI” and “looks forward to hearing the public testimony and reviewing the report.”

This looks like a really extensive problem that is going to require alot of attention and resources.  If you have guards getting tattoos to protect their own safety, something is seriously wrong.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Assemblyman Lou Manzo thinks the crime problem is so bad that he’s drafting legislation to urge Corzine to deploy the New Jersey Army National Guard and Air National Guard to help fight gangs in our cities:

“In certain areas, even in Jersey City, gangs have taken over areas,” Manzo said. “They (the National Guard) are going to come in with heavy infantry and they are going to take the scum off the streets and put them in jail cells where they belong.

Almost everyone agrees that the gang problem in our cities, and spreading into the burbs, is bad. But we don’t need C-130 gunships or M-16s to clean it up. The National Guard has suffered enough abuse through repeat tours in Iraq.

If you have a crime problem, one thing you can do is put more cops – not troops – on the streets. Yes, it will further burden our already broken budget, and the small government conservatives may scream that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to try to save our cities. But if there is a problem – and everyone admits there is – it’s irresponsible not to do anything about it.

New Jersey’s Baghdad Bob

Baghdad Bob
Pay no attention to the shootings and robberies and sexual assaults! Our police are still in control of the city. The gangs are now in disarrary.

That’s what Trenton’s police director Joseph Santiago would be saying if he wanted to deceive the public about the city’s crime problem. He might also stop providing the press with crime reports.

In a one-month period since Police Director Joseph Santiago disbanded the public information unit and instituted a new policy, the city of Trenton had 50 robberies, 29 aggravated assaults, eight sexual assaults and one homicide, according to records obtained under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

Because of the city’s policy shift, just seven of the crimes, including the homicide, were reported in The Times of Trenton.

Santiago instituted the new policy of hiding information from the public because, in his words “Public information wasn’t working for me.” He’s upset that the media isn’t clapping loud enough for him.

Santiago said his department was not benefiting from having public information officers deliver a daily dose of incidents to the media. He said he wants to see larger-scale stories, like the city’s crime drops and other crime suppression stories, in the city’s newspapers.

In Santiago’s world, local papers would be filled with stories of all the little girls that haven’t been shot in the face. To make matters worse, this clown has the support of mayor Palmer:

And Palmer showed full support for his police director yesterday. “Director Santiago is abiding by (Executive Order) 69, has been and will continue to do (so), and that is just the way it is,” the mayor said. “I’m satisfied Director Santiago is operating within his purview.”

With leadership like that, it’s no wonder the city is such a mess. Santiago should resign (again) and Palmer should apologize to the city for defending the indefensible. Then he should step down and turn the keys over to someone responsible.

News Round-up & Open Thread, Wednesday July 26, 2006

  • Following Monday’s Social Security press conference in Trenton, Junior tells the Star Ledger he opposes privatization, but Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo says his record begs to differ.
  • Gov. Corzine says the state should consider Video Lottery Terminals.  You want to talk about an issue that divides North & South Jersey.  Asm. Whelan and Sen Sweeney sent him a letter opposing the idea.
  • The 3 NJ State Democratic Campaign accounts have $2.8 million cash on hand outpacing the Republicans who have $450,420 on hand.
  • Environmentalists want the Gov. to veto a Pinelands Project which they say is the biggest threat facing the area in 25 years.
  • Sayreville is testing their water for a possible cancer causing chemical used to make Teflon.  That doesn’t sound good.
  • We covered the FBI raids in Monmouth County here yesterday and we also had the big arrests of members of gang suspects all around the state.
  • An audit reveals that BPU executives created an $80 million bank account lacking basic controls or transparency.  This was just one of the many problems cited in the audit.
  • The state Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for an inmate convicted of kidnapping a businessman and then murdering him after getting some of the ransom.
  • The Camden Fire Chief has caused a stir after sending a memo seeking a “white recruitment officer”, yet he said in an interview he wasn’t trying to get more white people to work in the department.

    Just another news day in NJ.  Have a great day!

  • 60 gang members arrested with more to come

    In what state police are calling the largest gang sweep in state history, State and Federal authorities arrested members of the Bloods street gang.  The arrests included four gang leaders who were directing operations from inside state prison….

    More than 60 people had been arrested by noon Tuesday, with up to 40 more arrests expected. That represents more than a third of the gang’s total membership in the state, including its “godfather” and several top leaders, four of whom were already behind bars, authorities said.

    These arrests are the result of an 11 month investigation in which law enforcement infiltrated the gang, but wouldnt give more details because it is a continuing operation.

    The NJ League of Municipalities has focused on this issue recently with the League and the Conference of Mayors calling in March for legislative action to help curb gang violence.The Assembly passed a package of 17 bills in May aimed at cutting down on gang violence as well.

    Reading, Writing and Gangs

    About 400 Trenton High students will skip school tomorrow. The gang problem has gotten so bad that kids are afraid to go to school and parents are afraid to send them.

    The presense of the Bloods and Crips gangs has increased recently in the city, and the violence is spreading to nearby towns of Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrenceville and even Princeton. The rival Bloods factions: the Sex Money Murder Bloods and Gangster Killer Bloods have in recent weeks been involved in several murders. Many of these murders occured in broad daylight and some residents are afraid to walk outside now, even during the day.

    Recently, a suspected gang member accused of murder got back on the streets after posting $50,000 cash for his $500,000 bail. Mayor Doug Palmer asked “Where’s a guy who doesn’t have a job get $50,000?” Good question. Perhaps the cocaine traffic ring wasn’t completely snuffed out last year.

    Attorney General Farber has said she will speed up from 3 years to 4 months the time it takes for shooting cases to go to trial. “It doesn’t work if police arrest people involved in gang and drug violence if they are able to get out of jail in three or four days because they are able to post bail and if it takes two to three years to prosecute their cases,” she said.

    That’s a start. Action must be taken – and soon. It’s bad enough that they don’t have enough books, computers or teachers. It’s bad enough they go to school in a run-down building that’s sorely in need of renovation. The least we should provide our children is a place where they can feel safe and learn. They’re already at a disadvantage and have enough challenges to overcome. Survival should not be one of them.