The purpose of the New Jersey State Police Gang Survey is to raise awareness and provide law enforcement, policy makers and the general public with a better understanding of the state’s gang environment. Although the perception among the media and the general public remains that gangs are primarily present in urban areas and are becoming increasingly organized and violent, the current data does not necessarily support this claim. In fact, the 2010 survey demonstrated that gangs were present in both urban and suburban municipalities, were relatively small, and that few gangs engaged in the dramatic and violent crime which we are used to seeing in movies, and which most frequently brings them to the attention of the public.
It may be surprising to see that a large number of gangs mentioned in this survey had little to no criminal activity attributed to them. However, this should not cause you to make assumptions that they pose little threat to the general public. Gangs are, both by legal definition and through the implicit understanding of their members, groups that engage in criminal activity. They ultimately have a destructive influence upon their communities in ways that transcend criminal behavior by creating environments of fear and intimidation. Therefore, you should neither exaggerate nor underestimate the scope of gangs in your municipality.