A campaign spokeswoman for Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas defended his call to "patrol and secure" Muslim neighborhoods to prevent radicalization, saying the method "works for gang and drug activity."
"If you have a neighborhood where there's a high level of gang activity, the way to prevent it is you increase the law enforcement presence there and you target the gang members to get them off the streets," Cruz told CNN's Anderson Cooper while urging law enforcement to look more closely at predominantly Muslim areas. "I'm talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism."
Cruz later released a statement that called for Americans to ignore political correctness for once and instead "empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized," in the wake of the deadly bombings in Brussels, Belgium.
"For years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear," Cruz added. "We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods."
After the Texas senator’s words proved divisive for many people, his spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, defended his comments.
"I'm specifically talking about radical Islamic terrorism, radical elements of this group and identifying it at the source, increasing the law enforcement presence, and having a visible presence," Stewart said when asked if Cruz was referring to some sort of "religious test," according to Talking Points Memo. "It works when we're talking about drug and gang activity, and it certainly will work in this case."
Stewart said Cruz’s proposals were different from Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s support for banning all Muslims from entering the country. She did not say whether or not Cruz would support a similar ban, although Cruz has in the past suggested only allowing Christian refugees into the country.
"We're talking about increasing the law enforcement presence in neighborhoods when we see problem spots and making sure that this doesn't grow in neighborhoods," said Stewart. "That's simply what he's talking about."
Trump later told CNN he completely agreed with Cruz’s suggestion to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, calling it a "good idea."