18 public housing towers to lose guards for daytime

September 21, 1990|By Martin C. Evans

In order to absorb an expected budget shortfall, the Baltimore Housing Authority plans to eliminate the daytime shift of security personnel who monitor the doorways in 18 public housing high-rises and is likely to lay off some of its 1,500 workers.

"I think we can expect some layoffs," said Robert W. Hearn, Housing Authority director.

The housing agency has been told to expect a cut of $2.1 million in subsidies from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The authority will eliminate, as of Oct. 5, the daytime shift of civilian security personnel who monitor the entrances at the city's 18 family high-rises, long troubled by crime and drug trafficking in doorways and stairwells.

Security at the senior citizen towers will not be reduced.

Some residents said the cuts would lead to increased drug dealing in the housing developments.

"There is already a lot of traffic coming in and out, and there will even be more," said Kathryn Cornish, a six-year resident of the Lafayette Court housing project in East Baltimore. "People just come on in to do their drug dealing."

But other residents said the cut would make little difference, because the security guards often were cowed by drug dealers and admitted virtually anyone who asked to enter.

The housing agency, which is landlord to 40,000 people living in 18,200 housing units, may also have to cut maintenance and other costs to make up for the projected subsidy shortfall, officials said.

The agency depends on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for $40 million of its $74 million operating budget.

City officials said they were preparing for belt-tightening measures even though HUD had not yet announced how much it would forward to the city for the 1991 budget year, which began July 1.

Mr. Hearn said he was told to expect the $2.1 million cut during informal conversations with officials in the Baltimore HUD office.

The proposed cuts in security personnel are likely to make it more difficult to control who goes in and out of the high-rise buildings.

The 24-hour security guards, working in eight-hour shifts, screen visitors who come to the locked doors of the high-rise buildings. The Housing Authority plans to eliminate the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift at the Flag House, Lafayette Court, Murphy Homes and Lexington Terrace housing developments.

Housing officials promised to increase daytime patrols by uniformed Housing Authority police officers and to try to organize tenant patrols as a way of boosting the security profile at the housing developments.

Rheba G. Gwaltney, spokesman for the HUD office in Baltimore, said the level of subsidies to be available to local housing authorities was unclear while Congress was deliberating over the nation's burgeoning budget deficit.

"We just don't know yet until we have a budget," Ms. Gwaltney said. She said she hoped a budget would be completed by Oct. 1.

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