With violent crime continuing to spike in many parts of the nation, including some urban areas in New Jersey, the Drug Enforcement Administration has launched a new effort to address the problem.

Susan Gibson, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New Jersey Division, said Project Safeguard is "pinpointing the direct causes of the violence in neighborhoods" in  Trenton, Newark, Paterson, Camden, Jersey City — usually drug traffickers.

Gibson said drug traffickers use violence, fear, intimidation and deadly force to ply their trade.

The number of victims of shootings has increased by 24% from last year. Murder is up by 41%.

Most drug trafficking defendants have a criminal history and half of them have been convicted of firearm offenses.

She said the DEA is working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pinpoint causes of violence “and by working with our local counterparts we get the drug intel on the street and who’s responsible for what, and usually that goes hand in hand with drug crime.”

She pointed out traffickers that flood communities with drugs like heroin, fentanyl and meth are often the same criminals responsible for high rates of murder, assault and gang activity.

“We have to get intel from our local community counterparts as to who is causing the most violent crime in that immediate area,” said Gibson.

Sometimes the DEA will work with local or state police but in other cases they will partner with the FBI, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals Service or the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Gibson said when guns are seized, by working closely with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, “we know where they came from, we put them into their databases and we get more information on that weapon and how it’s been used and the history of that weapon and where it was obtained.”

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