Democratic Mayor Cory Booker is dealing with a surge in crime in his city with six weeks left in his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.
Newark, New Jersey's largest city, with 250,000 residents, recorded its ninth homicide in as many days on Tuesday.
At a campaign event on Wednesday, Booker, a second-term mayor and a rising star in the Democratic Party, announced the city was working on a plan to put more police officers on the streets. Later in the day, he released a statement providing more details.
"The violence we've seen over the last 10 days is unacceptable," he said. "I am working closely with the police department to ensure it does not continue."
Booker said the summer deployment of increased patrols in troubled neighborhoods would be extended, increased overtime would be authorized to keep more officers on the streets and additional tactical forces would be deployed to target gun violence.
Booker, who's seeking to succeed the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, won the Democratic primary last month with the support of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Eva Longoria. His Senate race opponent, Republican Steve Lonegan, has frequently accused him of having spent too much time working on building a national profile and not enough on Newark's crime and other problems.
Lonegan, a former Bogota mayor, kept up the criticism on Wednesday, saying Booker "should be setting up a command center to combat the unconscionable amount of violence in his city."
"While Cory Booker is traveling the state and taking money from Hollywood celebrities, the people of Newark are besieged," Lonegan said. "Newark needs leadership, not a mayor who is looking to be promoted to the U.S Senate for his failed policies."
The winner of the special Senate election on Oct. 16 will serve the 15 months remaining on Lautenberg's term. Lautenberg, who was the oldest member of the Senate, died in June at age 89.
In the statement Booker issued through the mayor's office, not through his campaign, he said that public safety has been a priority for him from his first days in office seven years ago and noted that murders, shootings and violent assaults are down since the start of his administration.
"Sadly, there is no simple answer to the challenging circumstances that allow too many of our residents — many of them young people — to perpetrate senseless acts of violence," Booker said. "The spate of violence that our city has seen over the last couple of weeks is unconscionable and drives me towards both anger and sadness."
He said solving the crime problem would involve more, over the long term, than just putting more officers on the streets.
"The solution also includes challenging ourselves to address the issues at the core of this violence: improving educational opportunities, expanding mentoring programs, implementing smart prison re-entry initiatives and passing tougher gun laws," he said.
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