PATERSON, NJ – The number of people wounded in Paterson climbed to 112 in 2012, a 21-percent increase compared to the 93 victims in the previous year. That’s more than twice as many than the 48 who were shot and wounded in 2010, according to statistics provided by the Paterson Police Department.
Last year’s increase stemmed mainly from the fact there were several shootings in which multiple people were wounded, said Lt. Patrick Murray, head of the Paterson Police Department’s Cease-Fire unit.
In both 2012 and 2011, the city had 82 non-fatal shootings, Murray said. But in March 2012, there was one incident at Governor and Carroll streets in which eight people were wounded and later in the year four people were wounded in another shooting. “That’s almost half the increase right there,’’ Murray said.
The 4th Ward, by far, had the highest number of victims, with 42, according to city statistics. The 1st Ward had 22 people wounded, the 5th Ward 14, the 3rd Ward six, 2nd Ward 3 and the 6th Ward one.
“People are not letting their children outside to play anymore,’’ said 4th Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton. “That’s what’s happening. It’s affecting people’s lives and it’s not right.’’
The number of homicides in Paterson also increased in 2012, from 17 the previous year to 24, according to the city’s Uniform Crime Report. Two of those homicides involved shootings by police officers. Some of them were the result of stabbings or beatings.
Paterson only began keeping statistics on non-fatal shootings in 2006 when the Cease-Fire unit was created to investigate those incidents. The numbers for 2012 are higher than in any of the previous six years, Murray said.
“The problem is not just in Paterson, it’s happening all over the country,’’ said City Council President Anthony Davis, who represents the 1st Ward. “We need to continue to push to ban guns and to educate the community.’’
Last September, Davis tried to get his colleagues to declare Paterson in a state of emergency in an effort to convince state and federal authorities to provide the city with more money for public safety initiatives. But Davis’ attempt failed when other council members said such a declaration would hurt Paterson’s image and Gov. Chris Christie made it clear he did not think Paterson should get more money.
In the spring, the city was able to rehire about 33 police officers from among the 125 who had been laid off in 2012. The State Police also conducted special patrols in Paterson for several months during the past year.
Cotton said the city needed to put into effect a public safety task force that would focus on Paterson’s crime hotspots. “It’s not something you can do for a minute and then go away,’’ she said. “You have to keep doing it. That’s the only way you’re going to change things.’’
Davis said he planned to convene a series of “Town Hall” meetings about Paterson’s violence problem. He said the city ought to reconsider the possibility of imposing a curfew. “It should be the kind of curfew that will save lives, not the kind where everybody has to show ID or something,’’ Davis said. “I don’t believe a 12- or 13-year-old kid should be hanging outside at midnight.’’
Part of the problem, Davis said, is that a different mentality has become common among city youths. “You have individuals now who fear nothing,’’ he said.
Cotton said blaming the rise in shootings on street gangs was too simply. “People think everything is related to gangs,’’ she said. “It’s not all the time. Sometimes, it’s just nonsense. Sometimes somebody says something, or they’re too high on drugs and alcohol, and things just get out of hand.’’