P.O. BOX 8068

DATE: September 26, 2005 CONTACT: Anne Lee
(609) 278-2732


TRENTON, N.J. – The Mercer County Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force, convened by County Executive Brian M. Hughes in January of this year,
has completed its assessment of the gang situation in Mercer County.

Hughes formed the Task Force under the auspices of the Mercer County Youth Services Commission, a County Executive-appointed planning body that advocates for youth.

Based on their findings, members of the Task Force prepared a comprehensive, 40-page report on gang activity in the County. The report both outlines the problems that Mercer County currently faces as a result of ongoing gang activity and makes prescriptions for addressing these problems at both the community level and the governmental level.

After outlining a strategic plan for each proposed remediation measure, it concludes that grassroots organizations with governmental guidance and funding will prove instrumental in addressing the gang problem.

Specifically, the report proposes a community-wide, multi-systemic approach to youth empowerment, focusing on counseling, education, and a variety of other activities and services that build positive self-image and encourage young people to stay in school and pursue challenging careers. A variety of organizations seeking to advance these goals already exist in Mercer County; among them are the CYO, the YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club. These organizations teach valuable organizational and social skills to young men and women, giving them positive alternatives to the social capital they might derive from joining a gang.

More important still, the report confirms that positive youth development starts with good parenting and a nurturing home environment. It maintains that young men and women will have fewer reasons to seek out “surrogate” families, available through gang affiliation, if they have loving families and feel safe at home.

To this end, law enforcement and education professionals in Mercer County are working to keep parents informed about gangs, and to help them encourage responsibility and good communication in their children.

Mercer County’s Department of Human Services compiled the information presented in the report by collaborating with a number of other County services, including the Prosecutor’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Library System, as well as representation from various sectors of the community, including youth.

Human Services held a series of four meetings and several youth forums, and also conducted extensive research on gangs before completing the report.
Of a panel of 36 teens surveyed during one of the youth forums, 29 said that gangs were present in their schools and communities. Many of these young men and women saw gangs as a negative phenomenon. The Task Force noted that it hopes to help young people who understand that gang membership does not pose an effective solution to their problems to spread this message throughout the community.

The report states that ideally, such young men and women can help to open their peers’ eyes to viable lifestyle choices such as education, organized recreation, youth groups, and job training.

Hughes acknowledged the efforts of all involved in the Task Force and commented, “In County government, it’s important for us to emphasize positive youth development.
Focusing on ways to improve resources for County youth should be at the heart of our gang prevention strategies.”

(Note: Copies of the report by the Mercer County Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force will be provided upon request.)

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