Cory Booker on Crime



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

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