Two homicides during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend pushed the number of homicides in Trenton during 2020 to 39 — the most ever in a calendar year, with a month still to go before 2020 ends.

Daniel Alvaranga, 33, was found Saturday night around 9:50 p.m. with stab wounds lying in the street at the intersection of Brunswick Avenue and Southard Street in the North Trenton section of the city, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofrio. Alvaranga was pronounced dead after being hospitalized.

Several hours later, Omar Billups, 37, of Trenton was found shot in the head inside a first-floor apartment on Centre Street in the Lamberton section of the city, Onofrio said. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the prosecutor.

Onofrio said the two deaths do not appear to be related and remain under investigation.

At his coronavirus briefing on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy called the deaths "tragic" and said he had spoken to Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora.

"We continue to work with the mayor, with the community leadership, the faith leadership, certainly with the police department, Mercer County sheriffs — and it's not a milestone anyone looks at with anything other than a very heavy heart," Murphy said.

State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said at the briefing that police stopped what was believed to have been a retaliatory shooting — for an earlier incident. Seven weapons were recovered, he said.

"It is a daily mission for us to make sure we protect the citizens of Trenton," Callahan said.

The number of homicides had been trending downward the past two years, with 16 in 2018 and 15 in 2019, according to the mayor.

In a statement, Gusciora blamed the strain on the economy and restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, and a "ready supply of guns" for the record number of homicides.

"Economic uncertainty is higher than it has ever been in recent memory. School was for some children the only safe space they had. Youth engagement and recreational activities have grinded to a halt. Every police officer who has to quarantine for 14 days is one less guardian on the street, a heavy blow for a police department that is already much smaller than it was just a few years ago," Gusciora said.

The mayor said the flow of weapons has been slowed somewhat by Trenton police, who have taken 200 guns and 3,000 rounds of ammunition off the streets this year But said the community needs to remain involved like it did after the shooting deaths of brothers Gustavo and Johnny Perez in October. 

"If you are a business, register your cameras with Trenton Crime Eye. If you are a resident, ask the TPD about participating in its new Block Watch Program. As always, if you see something, say something on the TPD’s anonymous tip line at 609-989-3663," Gusciora said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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