In the first of a two-part interview, Newark Mayor Cory Booker sat down with Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the secret surveillance of New Jersey Muslims by the NYPD and the increase in the city’s crime rate.
Booker said that while Newark Police cooperated with the NYPD, it was limited in scope, saying they were not aware of the larger operation and that there are many unanswered questions regarding the surveillance.
He said that the NYPD’s actions would only be justified in cases where there was reasonable suspicion.
“If there was something that’s been reported and often the reports come from the Muslim community, who’s just as against terrorism as any of us are, then there’s definitely a reason to jump in. And I support that.”
He calls Mayor Bloomberg, who has staunchly defended the NYPD operation, a friend, saying they have worked together to stop approximately 14 different terrorist plots in New York City.
“Nothing’s going to happen on my watch. I will keep my people safe and I will work within the bounds of the law.”
The real issue to come out of the revelation about the surveillance, he says, is the need for more cooperation between New York and New Jersey’s own counter-terrorism agency — the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New Jersey.
“What we need to have in New Jersey is just a coordinated understanding of what the protocols and procedures in sharing information [are]. What the breakdown here was is that the NYPD was not communicating with their own people or at least with the JTTF.”
He spoke strongly about the “injury and offense” felt by the Muslim community in Newark.
“What I see is a community in my city that now has people afraid to go to worship services; they don’t know who’s surveilling them. I’ve heard from students that they’re afraid of associating or going to events. It’s put such a chill and injury on my community. It’s wrong.”
Crime rate in the city has gone up since last year. But Booker says crime overall has gone down since he came into office. He also predicted that the crime rate this year will go down compared to last year, citing a record number of gun recoveries, new law enforcement tactics and new technology that was announced yesterday.
Still, he acknowledges that he would welcome an increased police force which saw significant layoffs last year.
“There’s not a big city mayor in New Jersey, or around the country, that wouldn’t want more cops. I would love to have 100 more police officers, 300 police officers. But the reality is ‘What can we afford under these very difficult fiscal conditions?'”
Booker says a more ambitious, statewide vision is needed to reduce crime in the state’s big cities.
“I would love to see a vision in New Jersey for crime fighting from Newark to Camden to Atlantic City, Perth Amboy, Paterson. Many cities are struggling with the crime issue right now and we should have a more aggressive strategy.”