Jefferson Parish Sheriff is abandoning an idea he had to stop young black men in high crime neighborhoods after complaints from the NAACP
Harry Lee, the outspoken sheriff of a New Orleans suburb who has had a prickly relationship with the black community over the years, has again upset black leaders by suggesting his deputies would stop, search and run background checks on young black males congregating in high crime areas.
Lee, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, said Friday he was abandoning the plan - but made no apologies for it during a joint news conference with Dannatus King, local head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"I would prefer to prevent murder rather than solve a murder. But apparently not everyone feels that way," Lee said.
King's response: "There are no other people in this community more worried about solving crime and preventing murder than the black community. But not by stopping black people and harassing them for doing nothing."
The news conference followed a private meeting between Lee and NAACP leaders. Despite the disagreements, Lee said he would continue working with the NAACP to seek ways to reduce violent crime. Lee said he plans to use tax revenue to start youth programs in the parish in hopes of preventing crime.
Murder has increased in Jefferson Parish this year - 45 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 26, compared to 27 for the same period in 2005. Twenty-nine of the victims and 30 of the suspects have been black.
Lee has said the increase coincides with population shifts following Hurricane Katrina, saying drug trafficking has moved from devastated New Orleans to other areas that suffered less damage.
Lt. Kenneth Jones, the sheriff's liaison with black community, who is black, said he was one of the deputies who urged the sheriff to make the random stops as a means of helping get guns off street.
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