By Jeff Mays and Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Police are gearing up for a possible repeat of last year's Easter Sunday violence in Times Square.
Four people were shot and 54 others, including seven juveniles, were arrested or issued summonses in last year's violence. Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to the mayhem as "a bunch of gang members wilding." Several Harlem youth gangs were purportedly implicated in the incidents.
"We've anticipated a large influx of kids again," a police source said.
Additional police officers have been assigned to work in the Times Square area that day, the source said.
Police are not clear about why the kids gather, although Easter Sunday is commonly referred to as "Gang Initiation Day" in the area. In the past, young people have gathered at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center before heading to Times Square.
Jill Greenbaum of the Schools Unite Network, a group that seeks to use electronic communications to warn children, parents and the authorities about signs of trouble, issued an alert yesterday about this weekend.
"Easter is known by many as a gang initiation day. Police advise visitors to areas that attract large crowds, including Times Square to STAY ALERT! BE AWARE," Greenbaum wrote in the message.
Last year, several youth claiming to be members of Harlem gangs used Twitter to communicate about the events in Times Square.
"WENT MOBBIN ON 42....WAT YU DOIN TODAY?" a person with the Twitter handle _650K tweeted the Monday after Easter last year at a friend who asked what he had done the night before.
Area merchants have long prepared for the influx of young people by hiring additional security. Police line the streets with metal barricades.
Greenbaum said parents looking to keep their kids out of trouble this weekend need to speak to them in advance and enlist the help of clergy or a trusted advisor.
"If they feel their child is going out to get in trouble they need to have them speak with some of these trusted individuals," Greenbaum said.
Parents can also use last year's events in Times Square as an example of the type of mayhem their kids may face.
"Don't be afraid to talk about the Times Square incident. Parents have to listen carefully to their children, acknowledge their feelings and allow them to express their concerns without being judgemental," she said.