- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city announced expanded police patrols Monday and other measures aimed at reducing violence after a holiday weekend in which 11 shootings killed four people and wounded several others.

Mayor Ras Baraka said he was approaching the recent spate of violence aggressively as “a state of emergency” for Newark, a city long plagued by violent crime and unemployment.

“We believe we have to respond to the violence that’s happening in our communities immediately,” Baraka said at a news conference. “I think the people in the community are going to feel it immediately, they’re going to see the impact immediately, and the people who are committing these heinous acts in our city will see it immediately as well.”

Baraka and Police Director Eugene Venable said the effort will center around a new police precinct already planned for the West Ward, not far from the site of two of the recent shootings. Venable said the location of the precinct in an area where it can serve parts of the West and Central wards will produce quicker response times to crimes and give residents a brick-and-mortar location to come to for assistance.

Baraka added that more patrol officers are being moved to the precinct to replace internal affairs personnel, who are being shifted downtown. He said more offices would be hitting the streets and that shifts will be increased from 10 hours to 12 hours for the rest of the month. The overtime is covered in the current city budget, he said.

Venable said patrols would include “conditions units” that would target thoroughfares and business districts to ensure safe passage for shoppers and residents. Baraka said those units would focus on individuals known to law enforcement, but added they would “engage” them rather than use stop-and-frisk tactics.

Newark had 111 murders last year, the first time the number had surpassed 100 in six years. With 85 murders so far this year, the city is on pace to have a reduction, though Baraka said that is of little comfort to friends and relatives of those slain. He said the targeted nature of the majority of the killings does little to change perceptions.

“No one is running around shooting people aimlessly,” he said. “These have been targeted hits or based on arguments between individuals. Though it’s not random, people still feel impacted. They feel their neighborhood is not safe.”

On Sunday, 25-year-old Jamil Harris of Newark was killed and two people were wounded. Anthony Crooks, a 30-year-old Irvington resident who was shot multiple times on Friday night, also died from his injuries on Sunday.

A day earlier, 23-year-old Zaire Williams of Irvington was found dead from a gunshot wound on South 20th Street. About 2½ hours after Williams’ shooting, police found four shooting victims on South Orange Avenue. Thirty-six-year-old Lisa Parker of Orange was pronounced dead. The other three were in stable condition.

Baraka didn’t say if the shootings were related.

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