NJ Gang Free


Gangs have been reported in every county in New Jersey, in rural, urban, and suburban areas.


  • More likely to commit a crime, increasing their chances of being arrested/incarcerated
  • More likely to be victims of violence themselves
  • More likely to have alcohol/drug problems, and even health problems later in life
  • Less likely to graduate high school
  • Less likely to find a stable job
  • Female gang members are especially vulnerable to sexual victimization


  • We often think youth are coerced into a gang, but in most cases, this is not true. Youth are drawn to gangs because they provide social opportunities, such as:
    • parties
    • hanging out
    • listening to music
    • drugs
    • opportunities to socialize with the opposite sex
    • a way to show family, neighborhood, or cultural pride
    • a way to earn money


  • Youth often get pushed into a gang because…
    • They think gang life will provide them protection from neighborhood crime and violence
    • Sometimes they have been pressured to join
    • Gang leaders target youth who perform poorly in school, skip class, have low self-esteem,
      have few friends, or have already gotten in trouble with the law

    When asked, youth reported that the following reasons (in order of
    importance), for joining a gang:

    • For protection
    • For fun
    • For respect
    • For money
    • For a friend or family member was in a gang

The Attraction of Gangs

Economics: For many young people who feel disconnected from the American dream, the economic opportunities of gang membership offer an acceptable alternative to a low-wage job in the legitimate employment arena.

  • Relationships: Youth who feel marginalized, rejected, or ignored — in the family, school, or church — may join a gang to fill a need for support. Some youth join a gang for a sense of belonging, viewing the gang as a
    substitute or auxiliary family. For some, the appeal is that a friend or family member is already in the gang.
  • Protection: Although there is incontrovertible evidence that kids in a gang are more likely to be exposed to violence than kids who do not belong to a gang, this does not resonate with many young people who believe that joining a gang will protect them from violence in school or the community. Also, girls who experience physical or sexual abuse at home may believe that being in a gang offers protection.
  • Status: Gangs can be seen as a way to increase status among peers, a way to get respect, freedom, and independence — self-empowerment factors that may be missing from some kids’ lives.
  • Outlaw culture: Many youth — not only those at risk for gang membership — rebel against traditional societal values. During the cognitive- development stage of adolescence, being a part of an “outlaw culture” can, for some kids, be compelling.

This information was gathered from the following national resources. To access them click the links below.
OJJDP – Parent Guide to Gangs
Changing Course – Preventing Gang Membership
OJJDP – Juvenile Justice Bulletin (Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs)
Changing Course: Keeping Kids Out of Gangs