Board of Freeholders expands anti-gang violence initiative
With gang violence growing in its seriousness for local law enforcement, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders pledged its help in expanding the county's anti-gang violence initiative.
"I have been directly working with state Sen. Robert Singer (30th District), state Assemblyman Christopher Connors (9th District) along with Prosecutor (Thomas) Kelaher, and other county law enforcement departments in addressing this ongoing problem," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, who serves as Director of Law and Public Safety. "And, we are going to be even more aggressive in our efforts.
"We will begin to implement immediately steps we have discussed with the hopes of stemming the tide of this unnecessary violence," Kelly said.
Today, the Board of Freeholders authorized a $250,000 appropriation in the county's 2007 temporary budget that will be used specifically to hire additional personnel in the prosecutor's office for the anti-gang violence initiative.
According to Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher, the funds will be used to hire five additional people in his office, including two investigators, an additional assistant prosecutor and two clerical staff members.
"With this new initiative, we will have five additional people in the prosecutor's office working solely on the county's anti-gang violence effort," Kelly said. "They will be added to the gang violence unit created in December of 2005."
The unit was formed to gather intelligence and share information with local police departments, the New Jersey State Police and the FBI.
The unit is made up of members of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, the FBI, the Ocean County Department of Corrections and police from Toms River and Lakewood townships. The Ocean County Sheriff's Department, through its Criminal Investigation Unit, also works closely with the initiative.
Kelly said that Ocean County law enforcement agencies including Juvenile Services, Corrections, Prosecutors and Sheriff's Department, have been involved in monitoring gangs and their activities for a number of years.
"From the jail, to the juvenile detention center to the sheriff and prosecutor, the county departments involved in law enforcement activities have a long understanding of gang issues in Ocean County and have been actively involved in responding to gang activities," Kelly said. "The county departments are coordinating their responses. I want to make certain they have the necessary resources at their disposal."
Kelaher noted that as a result of the county's anti-gang violence initiative Ocean County has assisted the state police and Lakewood police in the February barbershop shooting of Jose Francisco Olivares and the arrest of Tyleek Baker, James Russell and Daniel Thomas, all "Blood" street gang members.
The unit also assisted in the April shooting of Terry Jackson and the arrest of Charles Gamble, Raphael Powell and Isiah Thomas, all "Blood" street gang members.
"We have also worked with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office helping to facilitate arrests connected with gang-related shootings in Monmouth County," Kelaher said. "This kind of cooperation and sharing of information among agencies is going to make a difference in this effort."
Kelaher said that another component to the anti-gang violence effort is a proactive community prevention element.
"First, law enforcement must aggressively and professionally investigate and prosecute violence crimes," Kelaher said. "The second area of concentration needs to be directed at the preventative aspect of gang activity and violent crimes in our communities."
Kelaher said his office has been making an effort to reach out to the youth in Ocean County through schools, churches and community civic groups to address gang violence.
"This becomes a concerted effort on the part of not only law enforcement but the community at large," Kelly said. "We all need to take action to prevent what will be an otherwise inevitable rise in gang membership and criminal activity."