Less than a week after a judge declared New York's "stop and frisk" policy unconstitutional, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a new idea for fighting crime in the city: fingerprint every public housing resident. Why? Because 20 percent of all crimes in the city are committed in public housing, home to 5 percent of the city's residents. The mayor also seems to think that public housing residents should welcome the increased scrutiny, for their own good. Here's what he said on his weekly radio show this Friday:
The people that live there most of them, want more police protection... 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’re you here?’ What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in...And of course ... there’s an allegation that some of these apartments aren’t occupied by the people who originally have the lease.
Of course, Bloomberg's scenario of strangers being questioned in the halls is not hypothetical: the city already targets public housing with stop-and-frisk-type patrolling of the hallways of public housing buildings. And while New York City Housing Authority residents have, in the past, asked for more police protection, there's not, at least, unified support of the particular types of attention the buildings already get. The stop-and-frisk policy in public housing hallways is the subject of a class-action suit, on which a ruling is expected soon, by the same judge who declared stop-and-frisk unconstitutional.
In any case, the fingerprinting idea fits with the broader defense from Bloomberg (and NYPD chief Ray Kelly) of the city's more controversial law enforcement ideas, all justified by the city's claim that the strategies work as a law enforcement tactic, for the good of the entire population. The NYPD's surveillance program targeting Muslim communities, the stop-and-frisk program, and the proposed fingerprinting program all target entire communities that the city flags as higher-risk for criminal activity. Bloomberg has argued, with language bordering on the apocalyptic, that the end of stop-and-frisk would put every New York resident in danger: "I wouldn't want to be responsible for a lot of people dying," Bloomberg told reporters in response to a question about the city's continued use of stop-and-frisk while the city appeals. And today, Bloomberg repeated another common defense of the city's programs: that those criticizing them have no ground to stand on, because they don't understand law enforcement. Speaking about District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who declared the practice unconstitutional, the mayor said:
What does she know about policing? Absolutely zero. Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it.
Earlier this week, the Atlantic Wire demonstrated that the causation claimed by Bloomberg and Kelly — stop-and-frisk leads to reductions of crime — doesn't really match up to the actual data (that point was driven home by Salon). While the mayor would, apparently, like the population of the city, particularly communities with higher crime, to lock themselves into a loving hegemony with the city's law enforcement policies in defense of the programs, the issues are become more and more politically unpopular as the race to replace Bloomberg as mayor progresses. The City Council pushed limits on stop-and-frisk, and pretty much all of the Democratic mayoral candidates are opposed to the program, along with the whole public housing idea. Current frontrunner Bill de Blasio called the idea "insulting, adding, "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."