Louisiana sheriff: blacks in white neighborhoods to be questioned

GRETNA, La. -- Blacks 'cruising around' in white neighborhoods will be questioned, the Jefferson Parish sheriff said Tuesday in a statement that drew sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sheriff Harry Lee said he was implementing his plan to combat a rise in black-against-white crime during the past year.


'We will stop everybody that we think has no business in the neighborhood,' Lee said while discussing his department's plans for fighting holiday crime.

'It's obvious that two young blacks driving a rinky-dink car in a predominately white neighborhood -- I'm not talking about on the main thoroughfare, but if they're on one of the side streets and they're cruising around -- they'll be stopped,' said Lee, who is white.

Overall crime is up 10 percent in Jefferson Parish, population 500,000, for the first 10 months of this year, Lee said. Gretna is a town of 25,000 just south of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

'Since we could tell historically that most armed robberies are black on white in the neighborhoods we have charted, we will address that particular problem,' said Lee, who did not give any figures to back up his contention.


The sheriff admitted he was advised against making the statement, but he said it was his duty. The American Civil Liberties Union thought otherwise.

'That is paramount to the apartheid-type pass laws that we see in South Africa' where blacks are not allowed to leave certain areas without permission, said Martha Kegel, the New Orleans-based executive director of the Louisiana ACLU.

'I think that for a public official to be stating that kind of view in America in 1986 is unbelievable, and Harry Lee has got to go,' Kegel said.

A 1983 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banned the random stopping of persons not linked to a crime.

Lee, however, stood by his statement and said he did not wish to add to or make any deletions from his remarks. The sheriff said his deputies will begin their checks of suspicious persons as soon as they are briefed.

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