By Francesca Trianni
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that fingerprint technology should be used to admit residents to city-run housing projects as a way of increasing security.
"What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in," Bloomberg said while speaking on WOR-AM radio about ways to improve safety in public housing. "We've just gotta find some ways to keep bringing crime down there."
Bloomberg, whose third term in office expires at the end of this year, pointed out that locks on buildings were often broken.
The mayor said the projects, run by the largest public housing authority in North America, account for 20 percent of New York City's crime even though they house about 5 percent of its residents. Some 620,000 low- and moderate-income tenants live in the city's public housing.
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said Bloomberg was talking about using fingerprint technology to replace traditional locks.
Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller and sole African American candidate in the mayor race, called Bloomberg's fingerprint remarks "disrespectful" and "disgraceful."
"Just like stop-and-frisk, this is another direct act of treating minorities like criminals," Thompson said.
Public advocate Bill de Blasio, the current Democratic front runner whose wife is African American, said the mayor should apologize for his remarks.
"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 mayor made his comments on the same day the city appealed a federal judge's ruling that the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk crime fighting policy was unconstitutional and disproportionately targeted racial minorities.
During his radio interview, Bloomberg said he was concerned the court ruling might make it more difficult for police to patrol public housing units.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called the mayor's comments an outrage.
"Families live in public housing apartments, not criminals," she said in a statement.
"Public housing residents, as well as their friends and family members visiting them, deserve the same level of respect from our mayor as any other New York City resident," she said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg,; Toni Reinhold)