As reported by, state law enforcement authorities are mounting a coordinated response to rising gang activity in cities and suburbs, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. Gang violence in the state has become “more widespread, more violent and more sophisticated” in recent years, Fishman told about 400 law enforcement agents at the opening of a three-day conference at the Hyatt Regency. The increased gang activity comes amid severe budget woes that have forced places like Newark and Camden to reduce their police forces.

“Gangs aren’t just confined to one bad area now,” said Mary Lou Leary, U.S. principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. “They’re spreading out. We didn’t see that 10 years ago.”

Fishman said his office and the Newark field office of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives are sponsoring the conference in response to a federal directive to lower gang-related violence. Fishman and other officials urged law enforcement agencies to reach new levels of cooperation and develop strategies to reduce recidivism and prevent kids from joining gangs. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.

Strategies must be based on what has worked in other municipalities, Leary said. “You just need to…tweak it to work here in New Jersey,” she said. Neither Fishman nor Leary would detail the strategies they are considering, saying they do not want to tip off gangs and undermine law enforcement efforts. Fishman also emphasized the importance of taking out an entire organization, not just the leader and allowing someone else to fill the spot. “Our strategy cannot be a high-stakes game of Whac-A-Mole,” he said.