TRENTON – In response to escalating gang violence in Newark, where four children were shot, execution-style, last week, Senator Ronald L. Rice announced today that he would be reconvening the Gangland Security Task Force, to provide necessary intelligence to deal with New Jersey’s growing gang problem.
“The shooting of these kids should be a rallying point for the rest of the State,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, noting that the fourth victim, Natasha Aeriel, survived the attack. “These were kids who, despite all the hardships of growing up in poverty in Newark, managed to get accepted to college, and were on their way to embodying the great American Dream. Three of Newark’s brightest flames were extinguished last week, along with so many others every day, and the community demands to know why, and how it can be stopped.”
Senator Rice added that the Gangland Security Task Force, which was established based on legislation he sponsored in 2005, is an agency designed to provide critical intelligence in order to effectively combat the gang problem in the State. Senator Rice noted that the gang issue is an entrenched one, and many of the established gangs in New Jersey have roots in prison recruitment, organized crime, and illegal drug and weapons sales.
“These groups aggressively target kids to fuel the fire, and turn them over to a criminal lifestyle,” said Senator Rice. “We need to get to the source of the violence, not only to protect kids who are trying to make the best for themselves, but also to provide constructive outlets for those steered down the wrong path.”
He also noted that creating a model for intelligence collection on gangs could also turn up useful information regarding non-gang-related crime, which was the case with the most recent Newark shootings, according to published reports.
Senator Rice said that the Gangland Security Task Force has been slow in achieving results because of the high rate of turnover in the State Attorney General’s office. He added though that he remains confident that the current Attorney General, Anne Milgram, is committed to seeing the initiative through.
“In the two years since the Gangland Security Task Force legislation was signed, I’ve had to work with three different attorneys general,” said Senator Rice. “The massive transitioning at the Department of Law and Public Safety has definitely slowed our progress, but I have Attorney General Milgram’s word that gang violence will be a priority for her time in office. I look forward to working with her to help stem the tide of violence in the streets of Newark and other neighborhoods across the State.”
Attorney General Milgram said, “The work of the task force has provided an excellent foundation for the development of Governor Corzine’s comprehensive anti-gang strategy. Senator Rice has been in the forefront of those who recognize how important it is for us to tackle this difficult problem.”
Senator Rice noted that gathering intelligence on the gang issue will help the State maximize its resources, but that New Jersey needs thorough, complete strategies to make a difference in the lives of State residents who are exposed to gang violence every day.
“The Gangland Security Task Force is only the beginning, and will go a long way in helping us pick the right fights, and get the most for our investments,” said Senator Rice. “Ultimately, we need to address the complete picture to really affect the lives of citizens living in communities terrorized by gangs. I’m glad that Governor Corzine, and Governor Richard Codey before him, have made gang violence a priority, but we need to expedite our efforts to fight the gang problem, before there’s no community left to save.”