The Morris County Sheriff’s Office hosted a two-day gang awareness and identification training conference, where 280 law enforcement attendees from around the country learned the latest from gang car and identity theft trends to threats posed by the Trinitarios gang and global jihadists.
The conference was organized by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Corrections Detective Corporal Edwin L. Santana, an internationally-recognized street and prison gang specialist, in conjunction with the East Coast Gang Investigators Association, Magloclen, and the College of Saint Elizabeth’s Criminal Justice-Police Studies Institute.
“We’ve tried to put this together for officer safety and awareness. As we see throughout the East Coast and as you’ll hear from our various speakers, the crime rate, recruitment and overall gang activity within the United States and abroad is increasing,” Detective Corporal Santana said in opening conference remarks.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon praised the law enforcement officers, and others who work in the criminal justice system and encounter gang members, for their commitment to a dangerous job of tracking and investigating people whose lives revolve around violence and ruthlessness.
The Sheriff said about 15 percent of the population at the Morris County Correctional Facility is gang-affiliated, with members hailing from street gangs, outlaw motorcycle groups, extremist and Sovereign Nation groups.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Gang Intelligence Unit, led by Detective Corporal Santana, routinely shares intelligence with other law enforcement agencies around the country, Sheriff Gannon said. A need for this type of sharing partnership was echoed at the conference by other speakers.
“The main ingredient to overcoming the current gang epidemic that is plaguing our communities is knowledge,” Sheriff Gannon said. “The speakers that have been selected to instruct in the two-day training event bring a unique specialty of knowledge and expertise, and when coming together in this type of training event, the attendee is provided a powerful guide to continue the war on criminal street and prison gangs.”
The agenda for the conference, held May 28 and May 29 at The College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township, featured extensive presentations on the Trinitarios gang that originated in the Dominican Republic and is active in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the country; terrorism and global jihad; gangs and social media investigations; and trends in gang-powered car and identity theft rings.
Detective Corporal Santana gave a presentation on his specialties: The United Blood Nation and the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, the most criminally organized Latino gang in the world.
Presenter Idi Guity, Vice President of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association New York Metro Region, gave a chilling historic and modern-day overview of the Trinitarios gang, of which some members were charged in 2018 with the murder of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz outside a Bronx, New York bodega.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking gang violence – like the horrific chase-down and murder of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz – can’t happen in a small town, Mr. Guity warned.
“What’s happening in our backyard is going to happen in your backyard. Sometimes they go off the radar but then they come back,” Mr. Guity said.
Mr. Guity, like other presenters, urged investigators to learn the origin and historical background down to the hand signals practiced by gangs they are monitoring. Get away from the office and learn the background, he said.
“You don’t get this information working at your desk,” Mr. Guity said.
Vineland City Public Security Director Edwin Alicea, who has been studying terrorism for more than a decade, gave an equally-chilling account of how virtually no part of the world has been left untouched by terrorism.
Mr. Alicea reminded conference attendees of more recent terrorist attacks in United States history: The bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013; the massacre in June 2016 at an Orlando, Florida nightclub; the murders of San Bernardino, California, Department of Health workers and their families at a Christmas party in December 2015.
Mr. Alicea, a United States Marine Corps veteran, gave an academic overview of what is known as “The Jihad Triangle,” and how the three factors of belief, knowledge and obedience combine to create an Islamic extremist whose mission is to “fight the unbelievers” while sacrificing his or her own life.
“There isn’t a corner of the world that hasn’t been touched by jihad,” Mr. Alicea said.
Based upon Homeland Security and other law enforcement reports, Mr. Alicea said, ISIS investigations and probes into Americans being radicalized and joining or trying to join ISIS, have now occurred in all 50 states. Mr. Alicea also cautioned that no area is immune from a gang or terrorist attack.
“I’m so glad that mindset that it can’t happen here is retiring,” Mr. Alicea said.