Mayor Cory Booker vowed to redouble efforts to reduce violent crime in the state's largest city on Tuesday, a day after shooting incidents left three people dead and seven others wounded.
The explosion of violence Monday shone a spotlight on Booker, who has made crimefighting the centerpiece of his first term as mayor and has spearheaded efforts that have drastically reduced Newark's homicide rate over the last three years.
Despite Monday's three shootings and seven more over the weekend of July 11-12 that didn't result in fatalities, shooting incidents are down about 4 percent compared to 2008, Newark police said.
Homicides have crept up, however, after falling from 106 in 2006 -- prompting the city's teachers' union to put up billboards urging the city to "Stop The Violence Now!'' -- to 67 in 2008.
Before Monday's deaths, 37 homicides had been committed in Newark by mid-July, compared to 32 during the same period in 2008.
"To the families of these victims, these statistics mean nothing,'' Booker said. "Yesterday was a tragic day, and we will not accept this level of violence in our city. We have made tremendous progress, but we have a lot of work to do.''
Police and investigators consider the shootings unrelated but for their proximity in time.
In the first, at least 20 shots were fired into a crowd of people from a car driving by an intersection in the South Ward section at about 1:30 p.m., wounding four and killing 35-year-old Nakisha Allen.
Police Director Garry McCarthy said investigators believe the shooting may have been in retaliation for an earlier incident.
"This was not random,'' McCarthy said. "Somebody went there to send a message to somebody else.''
Police were examining a car found several blocks away that had been set on fire and may have been used in the shooting.
A few hours later, at least two men got out of a car in a neighborhood that is bisected by Interstate 280 and opened fire on three men sitting on a stoop, killing 48-year-old Franklin Johnson, of East Orange, and 29-year-old Hassan Brown, of Newark. A 21-year-old man survived and was hospitalized in stable condition.
According to the Essex County prosecutor's office, Brown was scheduled to go on trial this month for the murder of a Newark woman last year, until a key witness backed out. Brown was released on his own recognizance a week ago.
In Monday's final incident, police said two brothers shot each other in a dispute over money at about 7 p.m. Both were treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.
Since the slayings of three college-bound friends in a schoolyard in 2007 brought worldwide attention to violent crime in Newark, a host of anti-crime measures including a camera surveillance system have been credited with reducing violent crime in the city, which has about 280,000 residents.
But Booker said Newark and other American cities continue to pay a heavy cost for the easy availability of illegal firearms that are used to settle even the most mundane disputes. He urged parents to take more active roles in raising their children.
"Too many reach for guns, and too many have access to illegal guns,'' he said. "We have to begin to take back our young people. It is a small percentage of our city that is executing a large percentage of the violent crime.''