State police say gangs present in township

Detective: There are members of the Bloods and Crips in local area

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

The Bloods and the Crips, violent street gangs that were founded in Los Angeles, Calif., in the early 1970s, are now believed to be in Woodbridge.

Detective Frank Manghisi of the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Bureau gave a seminar to approximately 40 educators who had gathered in Town Hall Friday afternoon, so that they may leave a little more educated about gangs and have a keener eye in identifying whether any of their students are in one.

"Gangs — we’d like to think they’re maybe not a problem," Mayor Frank Pelzman said at the seminar. "We may not want to admit it, but they’re here. Times have changed, I don’t have to tell you that."

"I know you have gangs here in Woodbridge," Manghisi said at the beginning of the presentation. "To what extent, I don’t know. Even just one gang member is a problem."

In 2000, Manghisi said, gang activity was identified in 195 municipalities in the state. With a new survey slated for completion in two weeks, the detective said that number was expected to "rise dramatically."

A gang, Manghisi said, can consist of as little as three people who share a common name and a common identifier, such as a color of clothing, tattoos or paraphernalia such as beads with adorned with the gang’s colors.

"But what separates gang members from other criminals is intimidation," he said. "They also have to have more than one characteristic. They have to admit to being a member."

Manghisi, who said the seminar he was giving was actually a condensed version of the usual five-day seminar, identified the gangs most prevalent in the area as the Bloods, the Crips and the Latin Kings.

Manghisi said the decades-long war between the Bloods and the Crips began in 1969, when Larry Hoover founded the Crips. Those in his gang were his "people." Those not in his gang, but in any other gang, were referred to as "folk."

Because of the differentiation between the "people nation" and the "folk nation," Manghisi said the Crips gained more power. To fight that power, most of the gangs in the folk nation banded to form the Bloods.

Manghisi said those violent street gangs migrated to the East Coast in 1993.

Bloods identify with the color red. Identifying marks seen often in the form of graffiti are the number "6," or a six-pointed star. Manghisi said Bloods have an affinity for the left side of the body. They’ll wear their caps to the left, hang gang beads on the left side of their body and even walk with a left-sided affecta­tion.

The Crips are the opposite. They wear all their gang-identifying paraphernalia, usually blue, to the right side. Instead of the number "6," the Crips identify with the number "5" and are known to draw five-pointed stars in their graffiti and tat­toos.

"The Crips are the biggest Folk Nation in New Jersey," Manghisi said.

To avoid being identified by law en­forcement, Manghisi said gang members have been known to just wear a white T-shirt with a red string hanging off.

Manghisi stressed that just because a teenager is wearing the color red, does not mean he is a Blood.

He also said that not all graffiti is gang graffiti.

"These guys don’t do artwork," he said. "They’re not someone who makes some­thing nice on the wall. They want people to know they’re in the area."

Manghisi said the average age range for gang members varies.

"They’re starting younger and younger, but we’re seeing recruitment in 11- and 12-year-olds," he said.

He also warned that gangs are also in suburban communities, too.

"This isn’t about race anymore," he said. "We’ve arrested a number of white individuals in gangs. It’s about money and power. You guys are going to see it here, I’m telling you."

Manghisi said the big draw for gangs to enter suburban communities is that drugs are more expensive here. In the in­ner city, a bag of heroin will sell for $10, in suburbia, the price increases to $15.

"It’s about location, location, location. These guys are in business," he said.

At the end of the seminar, Manghisi encouraged educators to e-mail him pho­tos if they had concerns that they were seeing gang-related graffiti.

"Recognize what gangs are and keep your eyes open," he told the crowd. "Assess your township before you do any­thing."

Woodbridge High School Principal Stephanie West said she learned a lot at the seminar.

"I’m going to take this information and bring it back to the school," she said. "I haven’t decided how I’m going to incorpo­rate it, but I thought it was excellent. I really learned a lot."