NJ State Police Survey Raises Issue of Gangs in Berkley Heights; Law Enforcement and Mayor Bruno Say There's No Cause for Alarm

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A recent survey by the New Jersey State Police, which reported the number of criminal gang members in the state, caused a stir in Berkeley Heights last month. Residents, shocked to see the number of gang members in town listed as 32, asked for an explanation.

“I was taken aback by the statement and talked with our Chief of Police, Michael Mathis, who said that the number was inaccurate,” Berkeley Heights Mayor Joe Bruno said.

After investigating the matter, Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow revealed that the State Police had requested the number of "transient" gang members in Berkeley Heights. The municipal officer who responded to the survey included in the official response those motorcycle gang members who attended the annual Feast of Mt. Carmel.

Sign Up for E-News

Even though the officer complied with the technical definition of transient gang member, these gang members were affiliated with the Pagan and Hell's Angels motorcycle groups. They do not live or work in Berkeley Heights and were in and out of town on the same evening.

Chief Mathis says that residents should not be alarmed by the survey. “I live in Berkeley Heights and have raised my kids here. I walk the streets here and I feel safe doing so. It is a great community.”

Mathis, who was sworn in as Chief last year, is a longtime resident of Berkeley Heights. “In the 26 years I have been a police officer, we have had zero gang-related crimes connected to the Feast at Mt. Carmel. It is a great event for the town and I bring my family each year.”

Months prior to the Feast, which is held in mid-July, the Berkeley Heights Police Department coordinates security with event organizers.“Though we have never had a problem, we are prepared for any type of incident,” Mathis says.

Bruno, who has lived in Berkeley Heights for 17 years, echoes Mathis’ sentiments about the event: “The Mt. Carmel event has been in our town for over 100 years.  The organizers do good work and they just recently renovated the Little Flower Catholic Church in town. The festival is widely attended. We have Union county police on hand, it is well-protected and there have never been any problems with the event at all.”

According to Prosecutor Romankow, there are three verified gang members in town. However, the Berkeley Heights Police Department is watchful of their presence. “We know them, we know where they are and what they look like. We are aware of what they do all the time. We train, plan and know what goes on in the community,” Mathis says.

Bruno says the presence of three gang members should not be cause for concern in town:  “I know that the Police Department keeps the members under surveillance, and as far as I am aware, they have not done anything wrong.”

According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, the presence of gang members is not unique to Berkeley Heights or Union County. In 2010, gang members were reported in each of the 21 counties in the state. While the number of criminal gang members slightly increased since the last State Police survey in 2007, Union County’s numbers remained largely the same.

“Our police do a great job keeping the town safe,” Bruno said. “Last year we were named the safest town in Union County by a state- wide evaluation.   We have one of the lowest crime rates per thousand residents in the state and lowest in Union County,” he said.

Prosecutor Romankow says that his office and the police departments are keenly aware of criminal threats and they are committed to keeping the residents of all Union County municipalities safe through a combination of smart policing, intelligence gathering and plans of action.

“It is up to all of us to make sure our towns are the places we want them to be. If you see something, do not hesitate to contact the police and speak up. Only by all of us working together will we be able to keep our towns, county and country safe from the threat of gangs,” he says.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Christopher Rinaldi for Town Council - Leadership, Judgement, Experience

May 17, 2018

My name is Christopher Rinaldi.  As a long-time member of the Republican Party, I am running in the Republican Primary on June 5th for Township Council and Republican Municipal Committee of Berkeley Heights.

As a follow-up to my Candidate Statements from the last two weeks, I would like to share with you a few areas of direct work experience garnered over the past 25 years that I believe ...

Redevelopment: Taking the First Step Together While Protecting Berkeley Heights

Redevelopment. It’s something that takes careful planning, foresight, the ability to negotiate for the most favorable outcome, and, of course, patience. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to reach all of these milestones. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, we as a community will take the first step together in the culmination of these efforts, when the ...

I am Proud to be Your Mayor

Honesty and results. Those two principles characterize my service to our community for the last nine years. I served on Town Council for four years and have been your Mayor for five years. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you and our community, steering it in a positive direction. During this time, I have learned about our Town, identified areas for improvement and been privileged ...

Taxes up, Services down.....At least someone is listening

May 15, 2018

Do you feel as if you are getting good services from the town for what you pay in property taxes? I don’t, and wanted to thank the one Council person who voted NO on this year’s municipal budget which will increase your taxes by more than 3 percent, exceeding the cap.  Thank you, Susan Poage, for listening to taxpayers.

When our Mayor grants raises by executive order ...

Who Is Dmitriy?

Who Is Dmitriy?

That is the question I asked myself in the past year or two. I first chanced across him online in community conversation. When an issue seemed to go nowhere, people starting to get ugly and nasty, personal attacks escalating, in would pop Dmitriy and with one comment, he could sum things up. He based his  opinion on information he knew, coupled with what he could glean ...

The NO vote on the Budget

I read today's letter to the editor from Councilwoman Susan Poage regarding her reasons for voting "no" on the town's 2018 budget. As I attend most meetings of our Township Council, including the one on May 8, I want the public to be aware of some facts that are not contained in Mrs. Poage's letter.

The 2018 Budget development process included public meetings on Feb. 26, ...

Mountain Ridge Bible Chapel Presents Special Women’s program

May 20, 2018


Mountain Ridge Bible Chapel, 763 Mountain Avenue, Berkeley Heights, is very pleased to host a unique free seminar for women on Saturday June 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

The speaker will be Doctor Ruth Schwertfeger of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Ruth was born in Northern Ireland, is a retired Professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  She speaks several languages, and ...

Kids Can Change The World

Karen De La Maza is the founder of “Kids Can Change The World”, a program designed to instill humane values in children while developing essential life skills and positive leadership. Karen and her family relocated to NJ from her native Mexico City in 2008 for her husband’s job.

Karen has always had a strong passion for helping people in need. With ten years of experience in ...

Racing to the Finish and Supporting Cancer Survivors


MAY 13, 2018 SUNDAY | BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—On May 13, the Summit Area YMCA welcomed over 1,000 participants to the 17th Annual Mother’s Day 5K Run/Walk at Memorial Field, in Berkeley Heights. This family-friendly event also hosted a fun magic show, invigorating Zumba dancing, a tot trot, face painting and music.

Matthew Byrne of Berkeley Heights won first place ...

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Offers Free Community CPR Classes and Plant/Flower Sale to Raise Funds for Relay for Life

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - National EMS Week – a time to celebrate EMTs and the important work they work do for our nation’s communities was established in 1974 by President Gerald Ford.  This year National EMS Week is May 20 to May 26 and the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad (BHVRS) can think of no better way to celebrate EMS Week than by teaching YOU, our ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

May 16, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

New Providence Community Pool parking lot, New Providence

CSA Community Yard Sale

Giving Back

Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

New Providence Community Pool parking lot, New Providence

CSA Community Yard Sale

Giving Back


Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Headquarters, Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Offers ...

Sun, May 20, 12:00 PM

Trailside Nature & Science Center in the Watchung Reservation, Mountainside

29th Annual Spring Garden Fair & Plant ...

Green Home & Garden

Sun, May 20, 2:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

History of Silhouettes & Craft for Children


Sun, May 20, 2:00 PM

Summit High School, Summit

Summit Symphony Orchestra Concert

Arts & Entertainment

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...