New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that access to public housing buildings should be controlled by fingerprint technology to prevent criminals from entering the buildings.
Speaking during a weekly program on WOR-AM radio, Bloomberg said that fingerprinting tenants of the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, buildings would help to bring down the crime rate there.
“Five percent of our population lives in NYCHA housing, 20 percent of the crime is in NYCHA housing -- numbers like that. And we’ve just got to find some way to keep bringing crime down there,” Bloomberg said. "What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in," he added.
He said that fingerprinting more than 600,000 residents in the city-run housing projects would make the buildings safer. He added that the locks in the apartments are often broken, making it unsafe to live there.
“The people that live there, most of them, want more police protection," Bloomberg reportedly said. "They want more people. If you have strangers walking in the halls of your apartment building, don’t you want somebody to stop and say, ‘who are you, why are you here?’”
The mayor made the suggestions while responding to questions on public security measures and on the safety of public housing buildings. He also said a federal judge's ruling last week that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional might make it difficult for police to ensure the safety of public housing buildings.
The city, on Friday, appealed against Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling that the stop-and-frisk policy unfairly targets Black, Latino and low-income people. The bulk of the tenants who live in the NYCHA buildings are minorities from low-and moderate-income groups.
Bloomberg’s comments drew sharp criticism from mayoral candidates, who said the mayor is stigmatizing entire communities who reside in high-crime areas.
Bill Thompson, a former city comptroller and a current mayoral hopeful, said Bloomberg’s comments were "disrespectful" and "disgraceful."
"Just like stop-and-frisk, this is another direct act of treating minorities like criminals," Thompson, the sole African-American mayoral candidate, said in a statement.
Bill de Blasio, Democratic front-runner in the mayoral race, demanded an apology from the mayor.
"Once again, Mayor Bloomberg has resorted to presuming innocent people are guilty simply because they happen to live in certain areas, and in doing so he is stigmatizing entire communities," he said.
The residents of the NYCHA buildings said that Bloomberg’s new crime-fighting idea goes too far.
“Why? For what? We live here all these years, I mean, what seems to be the problem? This is not jail,” Deborah Gatling of the Chelsea Houses told CBS New York.
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said that the city is planning to propose biometric entry systems, consisting of electronic keypads, to improve the safety of public housing buildings, the Wall Street Journal reported.