Street gangs are active in fewer than half the towns in the Shore area, a survey released Friday shows. The report, issued by State Police, shows gangs are active in 23 of the 53 Monmouth County towns, and 13 of the 33 Ocean County towns.
Monmouth County has 125 gangs with an estimated 721 members, while Ocean County has 114 gangs, with an estimated 691 members, according to the report.
Among the gangs active in those towns are the Bloods, the Crips and MS13, according to the report.
The report cautions that in many instances, “individual gang populations were unknown or were not specified” by the reporting agencies, so actual gang memberships could be different.
With an estimated 219 gang members, Asbury Park has the most in Monmouth County, according to the report. Lakewood has the most in Ocean County with 289.
Monmouth and Ocean counties were two of only nine New Jersey counties that reported a presence of 90 or more gangs, the report said.
In Asbury Park, Mayor Ed Johnson said the city is tackling its gang problem “head on” through a combination of enforcement and dealing with “quality of life issues.”
“One of the primary answers to gang activity is going to be providing opportunities in the community, whether it be with employment, education, or housing,” he said. “These are basic quality of life issues that we have to deal with.”
In Lakewood, police Lt. Paul Daly said: “We are aware that (gang activity) is present. There are a number of different types. There are a few Mexican gangs, and we do have Bloods.”
While police know or suspect that gang members are responsible for certain crimes in the township, Daly said he could not quantify that.
“We know that certain crimes appear to be committed by individuals with gang affiliations,” he said. “We do see individuals with certain tattoos or markings that indicate they’re members of gangs. We do have a significant amount of graffiti indicating gang presence, so you can see that it’s there.”
The types of crime committed by gang members varies, Daly said.
“Everything from auto theft and burglaries to robberies, and some of our shootings we believe are committed by people who have gang affiliations,” he said. “There are also a lot of assaults that are most likely part of initiations.”