BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed his public safety policy on his weekly radio show last week, he also suggested a way to increase security within New York City Housing Authority developments, saying residents should be fingerprinted when they enter a building.
Judge Shira Scheindlin deemed Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk policy unconstitutional, the Mayor spoke about improving safety through the City’s crime-ridden housing developments by implementing a practice that drew disapproval from the community.
During WOR 710’s “The John Gambling Show,” Bloomberg said, “five percent of our population lives in NYCHA housing, but 20 percent of the crime is in NYCHA housing.” Therefore, he said they do not feel safe and want more security.
Bloomberg’s spokesperson, Marc LaVorgna, said in a statement, “every day the Mayor logs on to his computer by placing his finger on the keyboard to sign in. Why wouldn’t we want to think about providing the highest level of security possible for NYCHA residents?”
“It is not about safety,” said Betty McCord, 59, a resident of the largest NYCHA housing system in the City, Queensbridge Housing. “To me personally, I feel the Mayor has an underlying agenda, which is to go after
the young Black and Hispanic youth.”
McCord said she would like to see “the thugs caught too,” but “everybody living here is not a criminal.”
She also said that if the City started to fingerprint every resident in every building across the City, regardless of his or her economic situation, it would then make fingerprinting okay.
“People are going to do what they are going to do and fingerprinting wouldn’t change any of that,” said William Kearse, 47, a resident of Queensbridge Housing.
Susan Boyce, 53, a resident of Queensbridge Housing since 1969, called the housing development her “safe haven.” She said she would want to see more police around the neighborhood in order to increase security.
“The police should become a part of the community and get to know the residents,” Boyce said. “It would cut down a lot of crime and shootings, but to have people press their thumbs to get into apartments, where you pay rent, I find it ridiculous.”
“I feel safe right now, but would not feel safe if we had to get fingerprinted,” said Jamel Kingston, 16, a resident of Queensbridge Housing and a student at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City. If the fingerprinting system were implemented, he said “it would cause chaos and people would be stressed out.”
Even though fingerprinting is not on Bloomberg’s to-do list before he leaves office, it is an idea he believes more than 400,000 people living in the City’s public housing developments would benefit from.
“All security is moving towards biometrics – even the next iPhone is expected to have fingerprint security,” LaVorgna said. “You place the strongest security measures on things of most value – what is more valuable than their homes? The current plan is to install electronic keypads or key card access to 26 developments make sure only people who live there have access and NYCHA residence can go to sleep at night and not have drug dealers creeping around their hallways.”
New York Civil Liberties Union’s Associate Legal Director, Chris Dunn disagreed with the Mayor by saying, “Under this proposal, the City would have to build a vast database containing the fingerprints of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Black and Latino New Yorkers.”
“Even worse perhaps, it would allow the City to track public housing residents every time they came home. This would be a massive invasion of privacy,” he added.
Lisa Smith, 42, a 36-year resident of Queensbridge Housing, said she would rather see security cameras and a buzzer system implemented into each of the apartments.
Terrance Williams, 45, a resident of Queensbridge Housing, said fi ngerprinting the residents would “make
everyone feel like they are in prison.”
“I pretty much feel safe here, but we should raise the quality of the buildings,” Williams added.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.