Cory Booker addresses uptick in Newark violence at Edison event

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 01, 2014

George Ellis a WWII vet talks to Senator Cory Booker during the reorganization meeting of the Edison municipal government at the Edison Municipal Building in Edison on January 1, 2014 in Newark. (Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger )


EDISON — As homicides surge in the city he governed for seven years, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker today addressed the killings in Newark for the first time since leaving City Hall in October.

"It’s grievous," he said at an event in Edison, where he attended the swearing-in of Mayor Thomas Lankey. "Any time you have over 100 people murdered in Newark, it should capture the focus of everyone who represents it."

Booker oversaw steep reductions in crime during his first years in office, but Newark’s homicide rate has been moving upward through 2013, when the city recorded 111 murders, the most in 23 years.

Booker said he’s looking at several programs to overhaul the U.S. criminal justice system and end the war on drugs, which he said fuels much of the violence.

"I can say as a mayor who has been fighting on the front lines for years, the drug war is an abject failure," Booker said. "It’s consumed egregious amounts of taxpayers’ dollars. It hasn’t achieved the public-safety aims of our streets, it’s consumed human potential, it is a massive government overreach."

He said the real answer to fighting crime is addressing poverty and poor education.

"All of these things are things we should be working collaboratively on," Booker said.

In the meantime, 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 North Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Anibal Ramos. "I requested federal emergency funding (to) bolster the ranks of the police department immediately and pay for increased overtime so we can 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. Attorney Paul Fishman 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.

Still, for Newarkers crime is the most important issue. While the city has seen drops in nonfatal shootings and overall crime in 2013, the shooting deaths have created a perception of fear and increasing hopelessness.

"There was a time when you could scare kids with jail or death," said South Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, "That stuff doesn’t work anymore."

Baraka has long advocated for the kind of holistic approach that Booker discussed today. He said to change attitudes on the street young people needed to be engaged through school, home, with music, even through the older gang members that many youths admire.

"A lot of the time, these kids are looking up to people who are causing the damage," Baraka said. "We’re going to have to pressure them to help us."

Central Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Darrin Sharif said he wants the city’s corporate and academic leaders to form a plan to address the youth violence.

"Sit down at a table and have a real serious discussion about the massive investment we have to make," Sharif said. "Even before that we have to have a Marshall Plan in reconstructing our neighborhoods."

Former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries, who is also running for mayor, said Booker and the city council’s decision to cut more than 160 police officers in 2010 was still wreaking havoc on city streets.

"The unfortunate fact is that Newark does not have the policing resources necessary to keep our residents safe," Jeffries said. "When the city council decided to lay off 170 cops, it set the stage for what we’re experiencing now, and there’s no way around that."

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment