Newark Strikes Back at Surge in Violence

Nine shot, including three dead, in a mere 18 hours

By Brian Thompson
|  Saturday, Dec 25, 2010  |  Updated 9:01 AM EDT
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Cory Booker says he'll wait for the union to vote on a new plan before he makes the police layoffs official.

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"This weekend we are at full force," Newark Mayor Cory Booker told an impromptu news conference just hours after a man and a woman were gunned down in one of the city's neighborhoods.

Booker says he has even called the White House in an effort to find any possible grants that can be used to beef up the struggle of New Jersey's largest city against a spike in violence that is being felt in other urban areas as well.

Meanwhile, Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for state Attorney General Paul Dow, told NBCNewYork, "If called upon, State Police have a contingency plan to provide assistance" -- an offer Booker suggested is not needed at this time.

The shooting of two people on the day before Christmas appeared to be retaliatory as the drive-by car used by the gunman was stolen, found abandoned a few blocks away.

"They were asking for help, saying I'm bleeding, I've been shot," said Alex Furman, a clerk at the bodega where the pair staggered into for help.

A man shot and killed Thursday night had a long criminal past and had survived a shooting last summer. Not this time, as the gunmen used an automatic rifle more at home in Iraq to fire 41 times at him, according to police.

And a gathering of five teens earlier may also be what Police Director Garry McCarthy termed "possibly retaliatory" as one of the juvenile victims who was wounded appeared to be trying to get to an Uzi submachine gun in a building just a few feet away.

Two of his buddies were killed and the other two, like him, survived with gunshot wounds.

Some have speculated that the surge in violence can be tied to the recent layoffs of 164 police officers.

Mayor Booker strongly disagreed, noting the spike began before the officers were laid off.

And he said that the police presence on the streets of his city is just as strong as it was before, with desks emptied and the spending of "hundreds of thousands of dollars on overtime."

In addition, a car jacking task force formed with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, has had striking success since it was formed just two weeks ago.

Even the Essex County Prosecutor's office is skeptical that laying off officers has a direct connection.

"I think the layoffs have been too recent to have any impact on an increase in violence," said Thomas Fennelly, Chief Assistant Prosecutor.

But his Chief of Detectives, Anthony Ambrose, did say that most of this violence is caused by ex-cons recently released from prison who return home to no jobs and no alternatives.

"And they can do nothing but revert back to the criminal element," Ambrose said.

The Mayor meanwhile, who was out on the streets of his city at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve Day, said he expected to be back out again as Christmas Eve gave way to Christmas Day in an attempt to keep his city focused on ending the violence.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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