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De Blasio vows to clamp down on shootings

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks at City Hall on July 3, 2014 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city is "aggressively" combating this year's 10 percent increase in shootings by putting additional police officers and other resources into areas hit hardest by the rise in gun violence.

Coming off a weekend in which there were 13 shootings and 23 victims, including two homicides in the Washington Heights area, de Blasio told reporters the NYPD will deal swiftly with the situation.

"I don't take any additional shootings lightly," de Blasio said at a City Hall news conference. "I don't take any additional crime of any kind lightly. We're going to address it aggressively in each and every case."

Through Sunday, the city recorded 730 shooting incidents this year, an increase of 10.3 percent from the same period in 2013, NYPD statistics show. Shooting victims now total 862, compared with 785 in the same period a year earlier.

De Blasio said shootings, even with this year's increase, are well below historical averages for the past decade, for which he gave NYPD Commissioner William Bratton credit.

"But we will continue to add officers and add other approaches anyplace we see challenges pick up," de Blasio said, explaining police already have intensified patrols at public housing projects in response.

Additional NYPD data show that blacks and Hispanics continue to comprise almost all shooting victims this year. More than 97 percent of shooting victims through Aug. 12 -- the date for which the most recent information on ethnicity is available -- have been black and Hispanic, while 96 percent of the identifiable suspects also fit those racial and ethnic categories, an NYPD spokesman said.

"Our studies have shown that by and large the shootings occur in neighborhoods with large minority populations who are both the victims and, in cases we can identify, suspects. This is where the violence is taking place," NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said.

"It has been pretty much that way for decades," agreed Professor Eugene O'Donnell of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bishop Gerald Seabrooks of Rehoboth Cathedral in Brooklyn said he believed the drop in stop-and-frisk encounters by police has contributed to the shooting increase.

In 2010, then-commissioner Ray Kelly announced an NYPD task force with Seabrooks and other clergy to reduce violent crime in minority communities.

Monday, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the Brooklyn-based national presiding minister of the House of The Lord Pentecostal Church, said the violence in the black community has been hard to watch.

"We have been caught in a horrible vise -- police killings on one side and we are killing each other," Daughtry said.

"I think we have to have a concerted effort to talk about why are we, as minorities, shooting ourselves and killing ourselves," Seabrooks said.

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