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San Francisco mayor backtracks on stop-and-frisk consideration

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday he was no longer considering a tactic that would allow police to stop and frisk suspicious people in an effort to get weapons off San Francisco streets.

The move came after weeks of criticism that the policy would bring racial profiling to a city known for its strong liberal outlook.

Lee said at a news conference the city will instead rely on more traditional strategies such as targeted enforcement and use of crime-tracking software to combat surging gun violence. The city has had 29 firearm homicides so far this year, more than half of those in June and July, police said.

"All the plans we are announcing today may not sound brand new, but they are a reinvigoration of where are hearts are," Lee said.

The mayor did not explain why he was abandoning the stop and frisk idea, and he did not take questions from reporters.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that Lee doesn't want to implement a policy that has the potential to include racial profiling.

Lee told the newspaper in June that he was considering the tactic that has been maligned by critics as a violation of rights and praised by proponents for reducing crime.

In New York City, police using the stop and frisk strategy stopped 700,000 people last year, and the majority were black or Latino. In Philadelphia, officials placed the stop and frisk program under court supervision to settle a federal lawsuit alleging racial profiling.

The Black Young Democrats of San Francisco rallied last month against the move outside City Hall. The previous week, a majority of San Francisco supervisors passed a resolution opposing the idea.

"The experiences of Philadelphia and New York City's shows stop and frisk requires stopping an enormous number of men of color, undermining the trust and faith between law enforcement and those communities," Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said Tuesday.

As part of the offensive against gun violence, Police Chief Greg Suhr said the city plans to target parole and probation violators and use an existing injunction against warring gang members in south San Francisco.

"Shootings are the problem. Guns are the problem. It's about getting to the guns," Suhr said at the news conference.

City officials encouraged people with guns to surrender them to police or pastors who have agreed to hand them over to authorities.

Dennis Smith, a New York University professor who has researched stop and frisk policies, said police stops help reduce and deter crime. He criticized Lee for taking the option off the table under pressure.

"The things that I heard he is going to try to do sound like a more palatable version of things that I think police departments need to do -- being proactive with crime and putting resources where crime is," Smith said.