Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3, and former City Councilman Alan Gerson say similar things. "There definitely has been more activity, and our board has been concerned about it," Stetzer says.

"Clearly, the city is experiencing a spike in youth- and youth-gang-related violence," Gerson says. "It's happening in many areas around the city." He points to the 16-year-old gang member who opened fire last month on a Bronx street and critically wounded 15-year-old bystander Vada Vasquez, and the gunfire that erupted in a gang turf battle in the Bronx and led to the slaying of 92-year-old Sadie Mitchell, who was hit with a stray bullet that came through her window.

But what about those stats?

"There's a disconnect between official statistics and neighborhood reality," Gerson says. "Youth crime historically has been the most underreported crime."

We asked Paul Browne, the NYPD's spokesman, about these perceptions, and also requested crime stats that might show whether youth crime was indeed surging, but he didn't respond to our e-mail.

What does the mayor think about all this? Hard to tell, but in his inaugural speech last week and a subsequent radio address, he actually referred to youth crime as an area he wants to focus on in his next term.

"In the years ahead, we'll redouble our efforts to fight crime by preventing it where it's still most troubling: among young people who are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of crime," Bloomberg said.

Well, at least that's under control. Shopping on Orchard Street, anyone?

grayman@villagevoice.com

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