NEW YORK (WPIX)—The morning after four shootings in Times Square, questions and rumors about the situation linger, including what had attracted so many young, mostly black and Hispanic people to the area? Were the shootings part of a gang initiation, or was it gang-related in any way? What PIX News has learned about the event helps to answer the questions and put the rumors to rest.
The crowds in the Times Square area Easter Night were big enough for the NYPD to set up barricades for blocks along 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, and put up an observation tower. The NYPD and the mayor say that young people are known to hang out in the Times Square area after the New York Auto Show Easter night. However, the auto show ended at 7 p.m., least four and-a-half hours before any shots rang out.
At around 11:30 p.m., according to police, somebody shot a man in the ankle at 41st Street and 7th Avenue, then around 12:30 a.m. at 51st Street and 7th Avenue, somebody shot a woman in the cheek with a BB-gun, and around 2:10 a.m, in front of Macy's at 34th Street and 7th Avenue, somebody shot two young women, one in the elbow, one in the leg. None of the injuries was serious.
So why were so many young blacks and Hispanics in Midtown at the time? People who were there, like Alfred Harris, told PIX News, "Every Easter night it's like a main event. They know it's like a special day, it's like a special day here. Everybody comes out."
His friend Kelvin Dixon added, "Girls. (From) Brooklyn, all boroughs, everything."
Through word of mouth, and because it's becoming a growing tradition, young people from across the Tri-State hear about what's happening each year in Times Square Easter Night. Many of them can stay out late because most local schools are off the day after Easter. Nobody we met near Times Square overnight on Easter mentioned the auto show, and nobody was rude, violent, threatening or even unfriendly.
But some of them did mention gangs, just as Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in a news conference yesterday, "This is just a bunch of people who shouldn't be on the streets if they behave this way, and we're not going to stand for it," the mayor said.
The rumor mill had it that the violence was part of gang initiations that go on Easter night, but the only place we could find any firm mention of that was on the Internet under "urban legends." Still, Mayor Bloomberg used the word wilding -- a street term often associated with gangs, which became well-known after the 1989 Central Park jogger attack -- to talk about the Easter night Times Square violence. Other political leaders warn of the situation worsening if police budgets do not increase.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said, "The city cannot withstand the draconian cuts proposed by the state to our budget. If there was ever a prime example that we need more resources to combat crime, this is it."
New York City councilmember Peter Vallone said, "We have a perfect storm in effect that will lead to an increase in crime. These are a harbinger of things to come."
The NYPD had 60 cruisers do occasional, highly-visible drives, with full lights flashing, down major city streets to send an anti-terror message. Instead, dozens of those cars and their assigned officers will now be re-assigned to patrol some of the city's areas with rising rates of crime, according to a wide variety of reports.
As for the Times Square event Easter night, police planned for the event, since there have been incidents in past years that the now seven-year-old practice has occurred. In 2006, there were three stabbings in the area, and last year the NYPD made 27 arrests. Gunfire this year may have raised the threat level.
So is it now unsafe for you, your friends or family to visit Time Square on Easter night or any night? It's a decision only you can make, but consider that while it is sad that four people were shot, the injuries were minor, and none of those shootings was done by the same person, according to police. The situation does show, however, that the city has a growing challenge on its hands to keep innocent, law-abiding people who go to Times Square safe on Easter night.