PATERSON - Shoppers and store owners in Paterson are praising a decision by the local police department to increase patrols in the downtown shopping district this holiday season.

It's an attempt to make downtown a safer place to shop as well as to entice more people to shop locally and stimulate the local economy.

Natasha Maya says she already does most of her holiday shopping in downtown Paterson. "The prices are right, the taxes are low, and you can't beat the stuff," she says. But she shops during the day after being mugged a few years ago.

Paterson police hope to ease fears about shopping downtown this year with a new initiative. The department has assigned six additional officers to patrol the streets by foot.

"The number of officers gradually grows from two to six on a daily basis," says Paterson Police Department Director Glenn Brown. "And they split up and walk different areas."

They will focus on major thoroughfares, like Main Street, Market Street and Broadway. They'll also monitor parking areas and visit stores. The six officers will be on the beat during peak shopping times, from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

"I think it's a good idea," says Daniel Griess, of Gold Star Jewelry. "It will improve safety in the area and make customers feel more comfortable. It will bring more traffic downtown."

The initiative started on Black Friday and runs until the end of December. The six officers on foot patrol would normally be off duty and are being paid extra using a combination of police funds and general city dollars.