NJSP Street Gang Units - A Brief History

For more than a decade, the Department of Law and Public Safety (DLPS) has been leading the charge against street gangs and the violence associated with them. In December 1993, the Attorney General announced the DLPS's policy toward the emerging problem of street gangs in a document entitled the "Youth Gang Initiative," which set forth two overriding goals:

  • To control existing youth gangs while disrupting their capacity to engage in criminal activities; and
  • To prevent the expansion of gang culture and gang identification among New Jersey's young people.

The Youth Gang Initiative acknowledged that these two goals could best be accomplished by the concerted action of both law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Following the release of the Youth Gang Initiative, a Street Gang Unit was created within the Division of State Police (DSP). The Unit's mission was to promote the participation of all New Jersey law enforcement and prosecuting agencies in the creation of a multi-jurisdictional response to the state's gang problem. Since that time, the members of the DSP Street Gang Unit (SGU) have faithfully pursued that goal, supporting the state's anti gang initiative by providing training, intelligence sharing and investigating gang-related crimes.

The infrastructure and mission of the Street Gang Unit (SGU) have evolved dramatically over the past decade. Founded in 1994 as a non-operational entity, SGU members began cultivating confidential sources of information that would assist in identifying the geographical scope and membership of New Jersey's gangs. After training more than 37,000 people, conducting three statewide gang surveys, completing more than 700 intelligence and investigation reports and recruiting scores of documented confidential sources in many of the state's largest and most dangerous gangs, the SGU entered a new and highly productive operational phase. This was accomplished with the participation of municipal, county, state and federal task force partners.

In recent years, the DSP reinvigorated its commitment to the fight against gangs by dedicating additional resources to the cause. In December 2002, the DSP expanded the SGU's staff to 25 enlisted personnel, and established regional offices located in the northern, central and southern regions of the state. In April 2004, the unit was re-designated to a bureau in recognition of the increasing need for services performed in combatting gang activity by law enforcement and communities across the state. In 2005, the reorganization of the investigative branch once again re-designated units under the Organized Crime Control Bureau's (North, Central & South).

Despite these organizational changes, the SGU's primary goal remains the same: to dismantle or significantly disrupt the organizational infrastructure of New Jersey's most violent, entrenched, and pervasive gangs (i.e., "super gangs"), which erode the quality of life of our state's citizens. To achieve this goal, the SGU employs an investigative strategy that targets the gangs' organizational infrastructures, and promotes statewide racketeering prosecutions.

In order to fulfill its mission, the SGU has devised a unique approach that breaks down traditional barriers between "Intelligence" and "Investigations" by combining the resources of both. In addition, the Unit benefits tremendously from the local knowledge and expertise offered by Task Force Officers (TFOs) from municipal and county law enforcement agencies. Although intelligence gathering has historically been its' main function, the bureau also incorporates the key components of analysis, training and enforcement. This integrative strategy results in a synergy that allows bureau members to produce "cutting edge" training, incisive analytical products and high-impact criminal investigations that are encumbered only by resource limits.

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