PATERSON - Since Christmas Eve, there have been eight shootings in the city's fourth ward, and some are calling it the worst crime spike in recent years.
Officials say poverty and unemployment have contributed to a rise in crime in Paterson. The local Police Benevolent Association (PBA) says that fewer police officers on the streets have also contributed to the problem.
In April, the city was forced to layoff 125 officers and demote dozens more because of an $8 million budget deficit. In the past year, there have also been numerous officers who have retired, bringing the total number of cops off the force to 140, nearly one third.
Police say the criminals know this and have become more brazen. The president of the local PBA, Detective Alex Cruz, calls it absurd that the city won't hire more cops but is moving forward with hiring 20 new firefighters. If the firefighters are hired, Paterson will become one of the only major cities nationwide to have a fire department that's larger than its police department.