Resident or Inmate? Mayor Bloomberg Proposes Requirement to Fingerprint Those Residing in NYC Public Housing

Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger

Fingerprint ScannerAccording to CBS New York, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg desires to reduce crime among the more than half million residents of the city’s housing districts. He is quoted as saying

“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. And we have a whole group of police officers assigned to NYCHA housing,” Bloomberg said. “The people that live there, most of them, want more police protection. 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?’”

According to this proposal, keeping crime down would be successfully addressed by requiring all residents to submit to fingerprinting as a condition of residency. Supposedly, the fingerprint or other biometric data would be used for biometric access devices such as live fingerprint scanning devices mated with door locks. Yet, the centuries old method of using a key seems to work almost as well and so could perhaps an electronic RFID or magnetic stripe card device such as those used in many hotels. Is security the real goal or is it more nuanced?

Approximately 620,000 persons reside in NYC Housing Authority properties. One has to wonder about practicality in fingerprinting this many individuals, especially if a large portion of these residents are young children where fingerprinting is difficult. One could estimate if somehow this was manageable at even three minutes per set it would require. At 248 office days per year and an 8 hour workday it would take over 15 worker years to fingerprint the existing residents, assuming there was no turnover or births or additions or subtractions.

But what will be more startling to many would be the implication to civil liberties and perhaps the insult in the minds of a large percentage of the tenants this would foster. The proffered intent would be that by fingerprinting each of the tenants and merging that with the security system theoretically only those who have prints were on file would be allowed access into the building. But somehow Mayor Bloomberg believes having a fingerprint on file would allow someone in authority or a tenant to be able to see a person who does or does reside there and is walking down the halls, scan their fingerprints using their eyeballs, and then be able to verify that this person is a resident.

But if such a system is implemented, what is to be done with guests of tenants or for those wishing to contact the residents for any lawful purpose? And realistically how easy would it be to defeat this scheme? One nefarious resident simply opens the door and a phalanx of crooks marches in.

Practicalities aside, is it reasonable for those who through economic need reside in government housing blocks must submit to fingerprinting as is the case with those accused of crimes who are booked into jail while those who are of better means who rent or purchase their own residences not required?

NYC Housing Authority Police PatchBut we should also ask, what the true purpose of this is, if there is one. Is it really to screen people or manage who enter the building? Fingerprinting the entire population of NYC is not going to reduce crime by any significant amount. It does have a purpose in identification only. Fingerprints only show who a person is and that they were present at a location to leave a latent print on an object. If one or both of these elements is absent a fingerprint is useless. Yet, the identification potential has the ability to detect who is actually applying to be a resident; that is if their fingerprints are on file. The problem comes in the use of this data.

Some states prohibit children under a certain age from being fingerprinted for a criminal arrest and / or conviction. Would this proposed rule by a means of bypassing this? Some security cleared employment applicants are required to submit a finger print card, such as those in positions of responsibility, investment managers, government agents and the likes. These cards are then compared with a national database to determine identification and if these prints are matched to those latent prints that were taken from crime scenes. Haphazard data entry by negligent employees can lead to incidences where one set of prints might be mismatched to another person, resulting years later possibly in the wrong person being implicated for a crime due a latent print matching the wrong person mistakenly entered into the database. The location for these print cards are also identified, so those who have submitted fingerprints (if these prints are to be merged into the federal databases) by reason of being public housing applicants when a comparison is made for them later in life it can show that the purpose of this person’s fingerprinting was that they had applied for public housing. Would this lead to a discriminatory treatment of the person, or at least an unfavorable view by some people who might hold a prejudice? And do people have a right to simple be not included in a government database when they have not committed any crime and elected not to apply for a security clearance?

But what kind of society requires it’s most financially vulnerable to submit to the same fingerprinting as those booked into jail as a condition to reside in public housing? And, what if the potential resident elects to refuse to submit to these procedures? Do the children of a single parent have to rely on the charity of others, or be homeless because a parent chooses, for whatever reason they have, to not be printed? Are we also to accept that economically disadvantaged people are criminals by nature and therefore are subjected to a different set of rules for different strata of citizens?

Source CBS New York

55 thoughts on “Resident or Inmate? Mayor Bloomberg Proposes Requirement to Fingerprint Those Residing in NYC Public Housing”

  1. Michael Bloomberg–a man who wears a political coat of many colors :

    “A Democrat before seeking elective office, Bloomberg switched his party registration in 2001 to run for mayor as a Republican. He defeated opponent Mark Green in a close election held just weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Bloomberg won a second term in 2005 and left the Republican Party two years later.[4] He campaigned to change the city’s term limits law in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and was elected to his third term in 2009 as an independent candidate on the Republican ballot line.”

  2. Darren,

    I didn’t know if you had seen this story:

    Upper West Side condo has separate entrances for rich and poor
    Last Updated: 12:20 PM, August 18, 2013

    This is rich!

    The poor will use a separate door under plans for a new Upper West Side luxury tower — where affordable housing will be segregated from ritzy waterfront condos despite being in the same building.

    Manhattan developer Extell is seeking millions in air rights and tax breaks for building 55 low-income units at 40 Riverside Boulevard, but the company is sequestering the cash-poor tenants who make the lucrative incentives possible.

    Five floors of affordable housing will face away from the Hudson River and have a separate entrance, elevator and maintenance company, while 219 market-rate condominiums will overlook the waterfront.

    “You know that show ‘Downton Abbey’? Where the servants have to come and go through separate entrances and bow their heads when they see a noble?” wrote the author behind the blog West Side Rag. “Well, there could soon be a version right here on the Upper West Side!”

    Extell broke ground on the building between West 61st and West 62nd streets last year as part of the 15-tower Riverside South residential complex stretching to West 72nd Street.

    Now the company is applying for the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program, which gives developers more floor area in exchange for building on- or off-site affordable housing.

    But instead of building a larger condo, Extell plans to sell the bonus floor area to another building within a half-mile of the site. Real-estate attorneys say such a sale could be worth millions.

    Extell is also seeking a controversial 421a exemption — a tax break given to developers who include affordable housing in their market-rate buildings.

    In October, The Post reported that five of the luxury firm’s towers cost the city $21.8 million in tax revenue in their first year alone.

  3. Barry: Government benefit, government rules.

    That statement implies the government is different than the people, and it should not be, it should be an instrument of the people’s collective will and nothing more.

    So sure, if collectively the people provide a benefit to their less fortunate members, those benefits can have conditions and requirements, but that does not mean the government impairs their freedom in any way. No more than my credit card company “rules me” or impairs my freedom by requiring I pay them back for the money they expend to merchants on my behalf when I use their card.

    As for the Jefferson quote, who said we want a government big enough to give us everything we want?

    Or “give us” anything? I want a government to provide services mandated by the people and nothing more. I want military and police protections, I want protections against fraud, against coercion, subjugation and extortion.

    This quote is mis-applied when it is used to imply the government cannot provide us anything we want, or that the government cannot be big enough to address systemic poverty, hunger, homelessness or lack of education or job skills or safety without over-stepping its bounds.

    Jefferson’s statement may sound alarming, but it does not prove itself and he provides no evidence it has to be true. In fact, logic tells us it isn’t true; the power to provide something is not the power to take something. Walmart is big and has the power to provide me plenty, but no power to arbitrarily take anything of mine without my permission. As big as they are, I still have to agree to any transaction between me and Walmart. The idea that there is no form of government that can be restrained by the people is just false.

    Besides, people do not want the government to give them everything.

    What people typically want, all over the world, is a fair and level playing field where they are not exploited, subjugated, coerced, robbed or defrauded and can succeed in life by working 40 hours a week or so.

    That is not the government giving them everything they want, they are willing to work, most are willing to work for about 90% of their adulthood. What they need from the government is an environment in which work works as a formula for success in life.

  4. Government benefit, government rules.

    To quote:

    “A government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have.”

    – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

  5. Bloomberg is a compulsive controller, a tyrant. It seems strange how the more liberal the govt. becomes the less freedom ensues, but there it is.

    1. “Bloomberg is a compulsive controller, a tyrant. It seems strange how the more liberal the govt. becomes the less freedom ensues, but there it is.”


      You read but you do not comprehend. Bloomberg is to the right of his predecessor Giuliani, but because he favors some social issues like Gay rights and gun control he ran claiming to be a moderate. This was needed to get elected in NYC. He is a fiscal conservative of the most radical type and a “moral” tyrant.

  6. Squeeker: The criminals are the main cause of crime.

    No, criminals commit the crimes, and make the choice to commit a crime, but that does not amount to a “cause.” Why do they make such choices? Because the “choice” they are confronted with is not really a choice at all, it is coercion by desperation.

    In the movie the Godfather, a man holds a gun to a victim’s head and tells him, “Either your signature will be on this contract, or your brains will.”

    Is that a “choice?” Your money or your life? Is a coerced “choice” any real kind of choice at all, or is it just slavery in disguise?

    Squeeker asks: Is it poverty which makes a Wall Street bond daddy screw the heck out of his customers?

    You are right about that, it is greed, by sociopaths (or effective sociopaths if not clinical ones). But I did not say 100% of crime is caused by desperation, some crime is caused by atypical psychologies (sociopaths, psychopaths, insatiable greed or other personality disorders), but those are about 2% of people committing crimes for non-survival reasons.

    When poverty and desperation are involved, the majority of people with typical psychologies are committing crimes for survival reasons and would not commit those crimes if they could join the middle class and work a non-criminal job for $30K or $40K a year and raise their kids with hope.

    Squeeker says: Do you think those traits are restricted to rich white folks? […] Go to your local public housing project on a Friday and Saturday night …

    I grew up in that neighborhood, you racist dolt.

    And I do not recommend anybody return. Once desperation, poverty, anger and resentment has driven an individual to a life of crime, violence, and coercion of others, it has also erected, for their own psychological protection, mental barriers that prevent them from feeling empathy or sympathy for strangers, and often for anybody but a select few brothers in arms.

    I think there is a significant difference between becoming a criminal out of desperation and as a matter of survival, and becoming a criminal out of simple greed for money.

    I do not argue the crimes are less punishable, in fact the crimes of desperate are often more horrific (murder, mutilation, arson, extortion, sexual slavery, drive-by shootings) than the financial white collar crimes of embezzlement and fraud.

    The difference is that the crimes of the desperate did not have to be. We inflict those criminals upon ourselves. I do not know how to fix a person that grows up wealthy, is educated in the Ivy League, never wants for food, shelter, entertainment or luxury, and decides to embezzle and defraud others anyway. Whatever is wrong with them is not correctable in any systematic way.

    But I DO know many ways to address desperation and poverty and inequality, in a systematic way, in a fair way that isn’t just a handout, in a way that pays people for making a contribution to the welfare of the rest of us, exactly as my own jobs (and businesses) have paid me, in various ways throughout my life, to make the world a better and smarter place.

  7. @MikeS:

    Good for you! You can tell all your buds to turn off their Avoid The Ghetto apps, and head out to the ‘hood for fun and games! With your endorsement, I bet they will be sooo eager for new experiences! I can hardly wait to hear about it!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. @bigfatmike:

    I do think the line is informative and telling because so many white liberals are remote from the problems they create. They live in a fantasy world where it is still 1963, and the Klan is burning crosses. And black criminals are just robbing and stealing to buy food. That is why I encourage them to visit their local poor black neighborhood at night, and get a better perspective. Maybe even put their own kids into some predominantly black schools. Those who whine about the roots of crime should actually talk to some poor black criminals. I have when I work with my BFF Fabia Sheen, Esq., an attorney. I have also talked to their families. I am not an expert, but I can tell you it is going to take a whole lot more than some “extra funding” to fix this crap.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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