NEWARK — The violence that broke out on St. James Place here on Friday morning had a familiar ring.
Mayor Cory A. Booker, above right, and the city’s police director, Garry F. McCarthy, discuss the recent violence.
A man and a woman — shot in their backs around 11 a.m. by a drive-by attacker in a stolen sport utility vehicle — ran into the J.& J. Deli Grocery at one corner. A month-old bullet hole could still be seen where someone had fired a gun at the deli’s window. A block away, a memorial of votive candles and whiskey bottles marked the site of a fatal shooting more than a week ago, residents said.
Even the police response on Friday to the attack, in which both victims were hospitalized but expected to survive, was workmanlike. Officers descended on the scene, collected their evidence, and by 12:30 p.m., they were gone, leaving only one visible clue that a shooting had occurred at all: a smear of blood on the deli’s bathroom door.
The police had their hands full. Nine people were shot, three of them fatally, in a 19-hour period beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. The burst of violence claimed two 16-year-old boys and a 30-year-old man and deepened a nervousness that settled on this city at the end of last month when the city announced it was laying off 13 percent of its police force because of budget cuts.
On Friday afternoon, Keisha Best, the mother of one of the 16-year-old victims, gathered with relatives near the spot on Avon Avenue where her son Allen was fatally shot, and prayed.
“Something has to be done,” she said, sobbing. “It’s crazy out here.”
At a hastily arranged news conference at an empty City Hall, Mayor Cory A. Booker acknowledged the fear caused by the shootings and a recent spate of carjackings and robberies in the city. But he and his police director, Garry F. McCarthy, defiantly maintained that the police were responding to the problem.
“Everybody is angry about this,” the clearly frustrated mayor said, adding that he blamed the news media, in part, for furthering the perception that the layoffs caused what he acknowledged was a “very troubling crime trend.”
Mr. Booker said that over the holiday weekend there would be more police officers patrolling Newark’s streets than before the layoffs. He would not give an exact number, but said the number was “dozens” more.
“This weekend, we are at full force,” he said. “We will not let our city go back to where we were in 2006 and before.”
City officials say they have reduced crime in the city by 21 percent since 2006. But the latest statistics on the Web site of the Newark Police Department show a 7 percent increase in crime from last year, including a 4 percent increase in murders and a 13 percent increase in shootings. There were 75 murders in the city in 2009, and up to Dec. 12 of this year, the total was 78.
The police appear to be most vexed by a rash of recent robberies and carjackings, which they portray as a regional issue.
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