A series of gang assaults, shootings and other crimes involving roving youths around Times Square on Sunday night and early Monday has sparked concern the city is on the verge of a crime resurgence as the NYPD keeps losing cops in a budget crunch.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the events an example of "gang members wilding," which he said coincided with the New York International Automobile Show at the Javits Convention Center. "This is something that happens every year at the end of the automobile show," he said. Officials at the show couldn't be reached for comment.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the assaults underscored how close the city was to seeing crime get out of hand under the threat of steep budget cuts. The city had experienced a recent 20 percent spike in the murder rate this year compared to March 2009, police said.
"Last night, the Crossroads of the World became ground zero for the citywide spike in crime," Stringer said. "If there was ever a prime example that we need more sources to combat crime."
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), chairman of the public safety committee, said the Times Square actions showed that the city was facing a crime increase.
"I don't think these are isolated," said Vallone. "We have a perfect storm in effect that will lead to increase in crime . . . I think these things are harbinger of things to come."
According to police, a number of groups of teens and young adults engaged in assaults and shootings, including one with a pellet gun, between 10 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. .
Police weren't certain whether the groups had drifted into the Times Square area from the car show at the Javits Center. But spokesman Paul Browne told reporters that the NYPD has for about seven years seen a correlation between the Sunday of the annual auto extravaganza and similar incidents at Times Square. In 2009 an outburst in the area resulted in 27 arrests, he said.
Based on past experience, the NYPD deployed dozens of additional officers in the Times Square area and officers were nearby to react to incidents, said Browne.
Still, the presence of the additional cops didn't prevent the assaults and three shooting incidents, police said. One man was wounded in the ankle at West 41st Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, while a man and woman were shot at 34th Street near the same avenues. A 21-year-old woman was hit by a pellet gun at West 51st Street. None of the wounds were life-threatening and police didn't identify the wounded as being part of any specific group.
Of the 33 people arrested, four were charged with the most serious crime of gang assault, which involves assaults by three or more people on a victim. A total of 19 suspects were charged with disorderly conduct, two with assault, two with grand larceny, one for driving while intoxicated and one for possession of marijuana.
Two of those arrested were in the NYPD gang database, although their exact affiliations weren't known.
Cops also issued 22 juvenile reports and summonses for disorderly conduct, Browne said.