Cory Booker on Crime



1960s cities had mostly white cops & mostly black majority

`The Northeast saw dramatic losses of urban manufacturing jobs. As work vanished, poverty rose; with poverty came crime, which accelerated the exodus of people, businesses and investment, shrinking Newark's tax base and creating a downward spiral. With fewer resources to address increasing problems, schools suffered, as did the kids who attended them.

Overt racism pervaded the city in the 1960s. Though blacks and Latinos accounted for the majority of the population, they had almost no meaningful political representation. What's more, mostly white officers policed predominantly black sections of the city, like the Central Ward. There were widespread reports of police brutality, and tensions built up around the all- too- common experiences of black youth who were stopped and harassed by the police.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 44 , Feb 16, 2016

Anti-recidivism funds much scanter than prison funds

In the 1970s, our nation's policy makers clamored to appear tough on crime. Punishments were put on steroids and our prison populations exploded.

If you go to prison for a nonviolent crime, you will return to society as part of a growing group of second-class citizens--often denied basic citizenship rights such as being able to vote or serve on a jury. If you have a felony conviction, your face often overwhelming obstacles to getting a job, obtaining housing.

Over the years, our initiatives helped keep thousands of Newarkers from recidivating--and they cost a fraction of what taxpayers would have spent rearresting, retrying, and reimprisoning these people. The irony remains that money for efforts to put and keep people in jail and prison is far easier to come by than the scant funds we cobbled together to run these fledgling programs. I always had the feeling that although we were making an important difference, we were not fixing the system.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.120-2 , Feb 16, 2016

Police doesn't solve problem; they just attend to symptoms

Crime makes for simplistic generalities, easy finger-pointing. It's tempting to wash your hands of responsibility and just blame the "bad guy." If we could just capture all the bad guys and lock them up, put enough cops on the street, create enough deterrence with strict penalties, then wouldn't everything be okay? Now, bad guys DO need to be locked up. We need more cops. Deterrents properly placed can help. But that is not enough.

In Newark, a meeting took place at the FBI's Newark field office. As they rolled through the data on violent crime in and around the city, I said to the then special agent in charge, Les Weiser, "How do we solve this problem?"

Agent Weiser looked at me. "Mayor," he said, "we DON'T solve this problem. We just attend to the symptoms of the problem." I knew that by "we" he wasn't just talking about the FBI; he was talking about law enforcement.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.141 , Feb 16, 2016

Reduced crime by helping prisoners coming home

In my first term as mayor, our city lowered crime significantly. In 2008, Newark experienced its longest stretch of time without a murder since 1961, and in 2010, it experienced its first calendar month without a murder since 1966. Making clear that this was not a statistical anomaly, the New York Times reported the odds of Newark going 43 days without a murder at 1 in 111,482. Even with setbacks in my second term, the average crime rates over my time as mayor compared to the year I took office would be marked by double-digit percentage drops in murder rate, aggravated assault, theft, auto theft, and shootings. The reductions were a credit to our whole city not least to the activism of residents, the partnerships of organizations that built parks and helped men & women coming home from prison, and the dedication of our police force. Even so, reducing the number of murders didn't mean that there weren't still people getting killed; we still had crime, too much of it.
Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.148-9 , Feb 16, 2016

Theory of "broken windows" doesn't drive down crime

[The federal DOJ investigated the Newark Police Dept. in 2010]. The report challenged a type of police stop in which I had put great faith--our quality-of-life stop, which stemmed from "broken- windows" theory of policing. The idea is that if you focus on minor infractions that disrupt the quality of life, things that might seem small in the context of more serious crime, you can actually undermine the more serious crime. The theory was widely adopted and is credited by many with playing a role in NYC's success at reducing crime in the 1990s. But they also gave fair warning about how quality-of-life enforcement could undercut the larger goals of a department if there was a lack of legitimacy and equity.

Decades after these practices were documented, judicially upheld and implemented across our nation, the DOJ alleged that our use of stop-and-frisk and quality-of-life summonses were not helping us drive down crime and that these tactics actually undermined residents' quality of life.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.154-5 , Feb 16, 2016

Poor & minorities bear the brunt of policing practices

The fact is, poor and minority communities disproportionately bear the brunt of crime. But they also bear the brunt of policing practices that punish their communities-- for minor offenses or no offense at all--in ways that wealthier communities simply don't experience. The irony is that communities that are crying out for more police often end up getting a type of policing they aren't seeking and not enough of the police work they need. In a world of budget cuts, we aren't adequately investing in local law enforcement and the strategies that can work, such as community policing, but instead are allowing practices to proliferate that don't reflect our common values.
Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.155 , Feb 16, 2016

Mass incarceration has failed

Some of the most important work we need to do to reduce crime has nothing to do with police. I am proud that more people are realizing the failure of mass incarceration and how lack of opportunity after returning from prison can send too many of our fellow Americans spiraling back toward crime.

I am also growing more hopeful about issues of race and the criminal justice system. We can't achieve our ideals of safety and security in our country without confronting the persistent realities of race in our criminal justice system. When it comes to policing, the attention being paid to videos of minorities being treated badly by police is good--if we learn from them.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.157-8 , Feb 16, 2016

Prison construction draws resources from other priorities

As we rolled out these statistics to the people in that auditorium, I saw looks of surprise and faces full of disgust. Most Americans don't know the extent of our incarceration explosion, and hearing about it sparks feeling of disbelief.

In the years between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened EVERY TEN DAYS. The astonishing rate of construction draws precious public resources away from other priorities. At the same time, America--which once had the top-ranked infrastructure, from roads to bridges to airports, seaports, and electrical grids--has slipped to 12th place.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, 165-6 , Feb 16, 2016

Parks and green spaces are associated with safer communities

My administration worked in conjunction with nonprofits and grassroots activists to increase community gardens, begin large-scale urban farming, and bring in farmstands and farmers' markets.

Activists and leaders educated me on the [environmental] benefits trees provide, and soon we set out to find every way possible to plant more of them. But when my staff told me that tree planting could actually help in our efforts to reduce crime, at first I didn't believe them. So they provided the data: evidence from studies that there may in fact be a causal link between more trees and less crime and violence. In fact, beyond trees on the street, parks and green spaces all were associated with safer communities.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.203-4 , Feb 16, 2016

Prisons grow irrespective of crime rates

You may assume mass incarceration exists because people are committing more crimes. But that is not true. Violent crime has declined roughly by half since 1993. In fact, numerous studies have shown that incarceration rates cannot be tied to crime rates. The incredibly costly reality is that prisons in our nation continue to grow irrespective of crime rates. It is a bureaucracy that has been expanding independent of our security or safety.

In fact, Americans are increasingly detained in jails for simply being too poor to pay a fine or from conduct stemming from mental illness, homelessness, or addiction. Instead of empowering people to succeed or treating their addictions or mental health problems, our overuse of detention, jail, and incarceration aggravates their problems. Being poor should not be a crime. Incarcerating a person further undermines his or her ability to achieve economic stability, and have an arrest record that makes the person even less employable.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 8-9 , Apr 28, 2015

Real solution to crime is addressing poverty and education

Booker said the real answer to fighting crime is addressing poverty and poor education. In the meantime, as homicides surge in the city he governed for seven years, Newark's leaders say the city can't wait.

"Nobody would argue with the need for a holistic approach over the long term, but our citizens need help right now," said one mayoral candidate. "I requested federal emergency funding to flood high crime areas with more police." Booker would not comment on whether those dollars would be available but said he has been talking with U.S. Attorneys about immediate strategies.

He also said the violence was not confined to Newark. The Star-Ledger reported today that New Jersey has seen a seven-year high in homicides statewide. "Looking at the whole state, we have serious, serious violence issues," Booker said.

Source: Newark Star-Ledger on 2014 New Jersey Senate race , Jan 1, 2014

Bipartisan solution to reduce recidivism

The challenge I often see in America now is we get caught in this idea that democracy's a spectator sport, that you could sit on your couch, root for your team, red or blue, but not realize that politics is a full-contact, participatory endeavor.

We as a people can never allow our inability to do everything, [such as] solving poverty, to undermine our determinations to do something. And so I'm a child of a generation that said, "I'm going to do something to make this world a better place."

[For example], the Manhattan Institute is a right-leaning think tank. I have lots of disagreements with their leadership, but we said that one of the biggest problems in America is mass incarceration. It's one of the most expensive governments that's gone out of control and it fails. They release those people and the majority of them come back. And we found ways to get together and do reentry programs of dramatically-reduced recidivism.

We have a politics in this country that's failing its people.

Source: Meet the Press 2013 on 2014 New Jersey Senate race , Aug 25, 2013

Ran off armed assailant: "Not in our city anymore!"

Booker's governing style: the mayor as collective parent and urban superhero. This is the guy who began his first term staying up all night to chase drug dealers off corners and once ran down a scissors-wielding assailant while shouting, "Not in our city anymore!" In April, he shoved aside his bodyguard to rescue a neighbor trapped in a burning house, suffering smoke inhalation and second-degree burns in the process.

His heroics aren't merely expressions of physical courage--though they certainly are that. They're applications of a theory of civic revitalization, which says that a single leader, visibly doing the right thing, can influence a whole community's behavior.

In 2010, Booker celebrated Newark's first month without a murder since 1966.

Source: Vogue magazine profile, "Local Hero Cory Booker" , Dec 19, 2012

Got celebrities to donate cash for police equipment

Slow down, he tells his driver, and points out the police station where the riots began in July 1967. They were sparked when an African-American taxi driver was arrested and a rumor went around that he'd been killed in custody. Twenty-six people died. The memorial is barely visible; in its place, Booker wants to commission "an iconic piece of art" that will pay tribute to Newark's past and future.

There's no public money available for something like that. Booker assumes he'll pay for it himself, or get some of his well-heeled friends to pitch in. Many of the most important initiatives Booker has introduced, from the Emergency Operations Center's huge wall of flat-screen TVs to the police department's bulletproof vests, have been funded with private money--more than $300 million for the city from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Goldman Sachs, and Zuckerberg.

Source: Vogue magazine profile, "Local Hero Cory Booker" , Dec 19, 2012

Long-term believer in "broken windows" theory

Booker remained steadfast in his commitment to reduce crime in the city. He believed that if he could reduce the city's crime rate, not only would the existing residents' quality of life improve, but he would be in a better position to promote the city to businesses and tourists.

Booker has been a long-term believer in the "broken windows" theory, which was made popular by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Booker spoke glowingly about this theory to voters during his 2002 campaign, at great political risk. The theory holds that if police officers enforce community standards of decorum (e.g. no loitering, panhandling, littering, squeegee window washing, and the like), criminals will get the message that residents care about their community and will not tolerate crime. This idea led to the belief that police officers can reduce the number of major crimes by enforcing the laws regarding even minor infractions.

Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.112 , May 7, 2012

Improve police data collection process & homicides dropped

On Booker's 1st weekday in office, he attended the police precincts' roll calls to introduce himself to the force. While there, he toured the stations and was appalled at what he saw. The precinct buildings were infested with rats and reeked of urine. The officers themselves reported low morale. They were still typing arrest reports on typewriters.

The old data collection system was confusing and not terribly helpful to fighting crime. There was little to no geographic mapping of crime. By revamping the data collection process and giving the precinct commanders greater ownership of their precincts, the hope was that precincts would become leaner, more effective crime-fighting organizations.

Violent crimes fell dramatically in the city in 2007. Increasing the number of police patrols at night, when most violent crime happens, had the effect of either deterring the crime or catching the criminals before they were able to act. The most notable decline was in the city's homicide rate.

Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.113-5 , May 7, 2012

Prisoner re-entry is the new front line of civil rights

Booker made it a personal priority in his administration to address issues of prisoner reentry. To him, this is the new front line in the civil rights movement. Booker was passionate about this issue and understood that if he did not address it, millions of men across the country, particularly black men, could be permanently relegated to the underclass. Booker believed that it was in everyone's interest to work to provide employment opportunities for ex-prisoners, and he hoped that he could be a champion for this issue, echoing a pledge in his inaugural address to make Newark a model city for prisoner reentry.

His administration's prisoner reentry plan proceeded with fits and starts.

Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.133 , May 7, 2012

$1,000 reward for crime tips leading to gun recovery

The reason we had four years of double-digit reductions in shootings is that we approached crime as more than just a police issue. We have the first-ever pro bono legal service for ex-offenders. We have one-stop centers for youth coming out of prison; we have a fatherhood program that's gotten a lot of national attention. If you think someone's carrying an illegal gun, all you do is call a tip line. You get four digits, you call back and see if we've made an arrest--we don't need a conviction, we just want to recover the weapon--and then, if we have, you get another four digits that you can use to get $1,000 from a number of local banks. It's just those eight digits, no questions asked.
Source: Andrew Romano interview in Newsweek , Dec 20, 2010

Launch Fatherhood Center and pro-bono legal help for ex-cons

Booker has tried to find ways to short-circuit the farcical arrest-release-rearrest-rerelease cycle by encouraging ex-offenders get a foothold once they're out--launching the Fatherhood Center, which helps men who want to be better dads, as well as partnering with the legal community to create the nation's first pro bono legal service for ex-cons.
Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

Police overhaul to change cronyism, favoritism, and cynicism

One of Booker's earliest priorities as mayor was to overhaul the police department, which suffered from cronyism, favoritism, and cynicism; a corrosive "Why bother?" attitude had set in.

Alerted via e-mail every time there was a shooting, and frantic to avoid another one, he started hitting the hoops court at midnight to help keep kids busy and out of harm's way. Then he began going out on night patrols in cruisers with cops, rolling up to shady characters and initiating come-to-Jesus conversations about what they were doing with their lives. The foolhardy gambit had its impact: Booker's dedication started to rub off on the department. More orthodox strategies have included what's known as the broken windows theory--the idea that attention to basic quality-of-life issues can ultimately help avert serious crimes.

Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

Applied "broken windows theory" in Newark policing

More orthodox strategies have included what's known as the broken windows theory--the idea that attention to basic quality-of-life issues can ultimately help avert serious crimes, as when two policemen stopped a guy drinking a beer on the corner, then discovered he was carrying two guns. When they brought him to the precinct and ran his name through the database, they found out he'd just been released from prison for shooting someone six years earlier on that very corner. "If those cops had driven past the guy, we probably would have had a homicide that night," [Booker's police chief] notes. Overall, [Booker's police policy] is getting results: Murders are down 29 percent since Booker took office, and 2010 saw an almost festive-sounding "murder-free March," the first such month in Newark in more than 40 years. But there have been setbacks.
Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

ReLeSe: Pro bono legal services to ex-offenders

With "Volunteer Lawyers for Justice," we launched ReLeSe, the first organization of its kind in the Nation, to offer pro bono legal services to ex-offenders; to date; more than 1,200 clients have received help to eliminate barriers to employment and family reunification. We also started the Fatherhood Center to help dads returning from prison transition successfully back into the lives of their children. We opened a City Hall Office of Reentry and created the Newark Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, which in a year's time has served over 600 ex-offenders and already placed more than half in jobs. This powerful network of providers we've assembled, in total, is serving thousands of returning ex-offenders and dramatically lowering recidivism rates.

Every dollar we invest in re-entry initiatives results in many more dollars saved as we reduce our dependency on courts, police and jails. These programs must, and, under our leadership will, expand in the coming years.

Source: 2010 State of the City Address at Newark Symphony Hall , Feb 9, 2010

Rated 9% by the NAPO, indicating a police-the-police stance.

Booker scores 9% by the NAPO on crime & police issues

Ratings by the National Association of Police Organizations indicate support or opposition to issues of importance to police and crime. The organization's self-description: "The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) is a coalition of police units and associations from across the United States. NAPO was organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of America's law enforcement officers through legislative advocacy, political action, and education.

"Increasingly, the rights and interests of law enforcement officers have been the subject of legislative, executive, and judicial action in the nationís capital. NAPO works to influence the course of national affairs where law enforcement interests are concerned. The following list includes examples of NAPOís accomplishments:

VoteMatch scoring for the NAPO ratings is as follows:

Source: NAPO ratings on Congress and politicians 2014_NAPO on Dec 31, 2014

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Other big-city mayors on Crime: Cory Booker on other issues:

Mike Bloomberg (I,New York City)
Cory Booker (D,Newark,NJ)
Julian Castro (D,San Antonio,TX)
Rahm Emanuel (D,Chicago)
Phil Gordon (D,Phoenix)
Tom Menino (D,Boston)
Michael Nutter (D,Philadelphia)
Annise Parker (D,Houston)
Mike Rawlings (D,Dallas)
Jerry Sanders (R,San Diego)
Antonio Villaraigosa (D,Los Angeles)

Former Mayors:
Rocky Anderson (I,Salt Lake City)
Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee,WI)
Jerry Brown (D,Oakland,CA)
Rudy Giuliani (R,New York City)
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Sarah Palin (R,Wasilla,AK)
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Page last updated: Sep 22, 2016