In the wake of a home invasion involving members of the Bloods street gang on Jan. 21, many students at the College were shocked to find out that gang members were still present in Ewing. Those same students who were surprised by the notion of gang activity nearby will be even more shocked to discover that the problem isn’t that small, and it isn’t confined to just Ewing.
“There’s no place in Mercer County that doesn’t have gang activity,” Sgt. John Stemler, who is in charge of the Ewing police detective bureau and was supervisor for the Jan. 21 rape case on Upland Avenue, said. “Anybody who thinks that they don’t have gang activity in their township is sadly mistaken.”
According to Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County prosecutor’s office, Kareem Singleton, a former grill cook in the Rathskeller, pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter, conspiracy and hindering of a prosecution in 2005.
On May 5, 2005, a firebombing in Trenton took the lives of 24-year old Rasheen Glover and his two daughters: Janaya Glover, 6, and Jyasia Watson, 7. The three suspects charged with the attack, Tyhir Dennis a.k.a. “Nu”, Kevin “Kellz” Barnes and Dewan “Gully Boy” Dennis, have all been discovered to be members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods. An article published in The Trentonian on Feb. 7, 2007 actually describes Dennis as the leader of this particular sect of Bloods.
Barnes borrowed a car belonging to Singleton, a fellow Bounty Hunter Bloods foot soldier, to commit the murders. Singleton later drove Barnes to Delaware, where he hid out following the arson.
“If he worked as a grill cook at the (Rathskeller), then he was absolutely a Sodexho employee,” Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations at the College, said.
Representatives from Sodexho did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview as of press time.
In an article published in the Oct. 11, 2006 issue of The Signal, John Higgins, director of Dining Services, said that while Sodexho does background checks on all its employees, “an employee could have warrants issued for his arrest after he has cleared a background check and been hired.”
“We are given access to Sodexho’s background checks,” Golden said. “There is a person employed by the College who reviews those background checks and makes sure they are in accordance with all the requirements to work here at the College.”
According to Detective Frank Clayton of the Mercer County prosecutor’s office, Singleton’s record was clean prior to his involvement in the May 2005 firebombing.
“He had lived in Virginia before moving to New Jersey,” Clayton said. “We believe hat he was affiliated with the Bloods for less than a year, probably closer to six to eight months. He must have kept his affiliation quiet.”
Golden emphasized the fact that Sodexho does all they can to hire reputable employees.
An article published in the February 2007 issue of the Ewing Observer states that police intelligence knows of 104 gang members residing in Ewing township. It also states that police believe that gang-related crime accounts for anywhere between 60 and 75 percent of the violent crime in the area.
Stemler mentioned two divisions of the Bloods street gang – Sex, Money, Murder and G-Shine – as well as the infamous Crips, as the major players in the Trenton-Ewing area. He also noted that there was a small Latin Kings presence, as well as a gang called the White Diamonds.
“The White Diamonds are a kind of ‘farm team’ for the Bloods,” Stemler said. “They’re a juvenile sect, ranging in age from 11 to 14 years old.”
Clayton added the Netas, a primarily Puerto Rican gang, and MS-13, a gang comprised of El Salvadorian immigrants, to the list of players in the Ewing township underworld.
“The 9-Tec, or Nine Tres, section of the Bloods were the first East Coast group,” Clayton said. “They started up in 1993 at Ryker’s Island and they’ve been around Ewing since late 1999 or early 2000.”
“The Bloods have grown exponentially since 2002,” Clayton added.
Clayton and Stemler cited drug trafficking as the gangs’ primary source of business. Stemler noted heroin, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy as their narcotics of choice.
Both detectives acknowledged the severity of Ewing’s gang problem, offering comparisons to Trenton as well as some insight as to why this issue may not have come to light sooner.
“Ewing’s not Trenton; they may not be gang-banging on the corners like they are out in the inner-city,” Clayton said. “A lot of gang members live outside of Ewing. They don’t shit where they eat.”
“We don’t put a lot of our gang information in the paper, because we don’t want to glorify the life and accidentally start our own membership drive,” Stemler said.
Stemler also stated that simply wearing gang colors or representing a particular gang are not enough to warrant an arrest.
“It’s not illegal to be in a gang in New Jersey, someone can come up to me and say ‘I’m a Blood,'” Stemler said. “It’s the activity that follows that causes the problem. It’s not so simple where I can just stop them and arrest them.”
Stemler also commented on the possibility of gang activity among the student body of the College as well.
“Of course there could be gang members on campus; you’ve got bangers in the military now. Their enterprise is drugs, and if they’ve got guys in schools with business degrees that can help further their enterprise, it only helps them,” Stemler said. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see if the student body had some gang affiliation.”