Gang activity shouldn’t come as surprise

Some students may have been surprised to find an article in this week’s issue of The Signal reporting claims of a significant gang presence on our campus. The alarming reality is this fact should not have come as a shock.

Some of you might remember reading about Kareem Singleton in The Signal last year. You’ve probably seen him on campus. He worked as a grill cook in the Rathskeller until 2005. In May of that year, he pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter, conspiracy and hindering of a prosecution, according to Casey DiBlasio of the Mercer County prosecutor’s office.

It was also discovered that Singleton was a member of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, a Trenton-area set of the infamous Bloods street gang. The Signal reported this last February. Why so late? Because nobody our reporters talked to had any idea who Singleton was when we asked.

We sometimes forget how close we live to Trenton, the largest hotbed for gang activity in New Jersey this side of Camden. The topic of Singleton only rose again because last January, according to various Associated Press stories and The Trentonian, Bloods members were arrested in connection with a home invasion and vicious assault on a Vietnam War veteran, as well as the rape of his girlfriend. This happened on Browning Avenue, a street located perilously close to our campus’ Green Lane entrance.

Many students living off campus have lived on Browning Avenue, some only a few doors down from the house where the break-in occured.

The truth is, the possibility of gang members residing on this campus isn’t surprising. It’s actually anything but. In an interview with The Signal last semester, Sgt. John Stemler, head of the Ewing detective bureau, explained that gang activity on college campuses has become more prevalent in the past few years, and it isn’t exclusive to the College.

“Of course there could be gang members on your campus. You’ve got bangers in the military now,” Stemler said. “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. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see if the student body had some gang affiliation.”

Gangs aren’t just the stuff of mainstream hip-hop and crime movies. They are real and close by. Trenton is home to sets of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Nietas and MS-13. A wrong turn up Olden Avenue could land you in Trenton. It’s closer than we think, or more importantly, closer than we want to think.

The Signal, The Ewing Observer and even The New York Times have written articles on this topic in the past year, but many in the campus community remain ignorant of the situation. Maybe our unwanted run-in with Michael Larkin should serve less as a surprise and more as a wake-up call.

The shooting was a hoax last Sunday. The very real proximity of gang members to the College is not. Let this serve as a warning to all of us.