Muslim security patrols urged for public housing high-rises

September 28, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

A Baltimore councilman wants members of the Nation of Islam to patrol the city's public housing high-rises. Kenneth Hall, a resident of George B. Murphy Homes, likes the idea, but he has one reservation.

"They'll be there to protect the residents, but if they don't have any weapons, who's going to protect them?" says Mr. Hall, 25.

"It might be nice to know that someone is there for our protection, but their presence can only mean so much," he adds. "Everyone else down there but them'll have guns."

Reacting to complaints about lax security in West Baltimore's Murphy Homes and the city's other high-rise projects, Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, D-4th, wants the Muslims to patrol the buildings and work with housing authority police.

"We need this immediately. Right now," Mr. Bell says.

Housing officials say they need more details before they can make a decision on the Muslim patrols.

"We would be glad to explore the feasibility of a program that has the support of the Baltimore city police and the housing police and work in partnership with the residents of public housing communities," says Robert W. Hearn, executive director of the city's housing authority.

The Nation of Islam runs a licensed security firm and currently has patrols at several senior citizen buildings in the city. Mr. Bell says the neatly dressed, well-groomed Muslims would serve as good role models for residents in the high-rises.

"In places like Murphy Homes, we need to quickly and dramatically restore order," Mr. Bell says. "Residents relate better to Muslims."

Representatives from the security firm are ready to meet with city officials to discuss the patrols in the high-rises, says Abdul Arif Muhammad, a spokesman for the firm.

Mr. Bell says Muslim patrols at the Murphy Homes could be a pilot program for future efforts at other public housing locations throughout the city. Pay for the Muslims has not been discussed, but Mr. Bell says money is not important.

"Even if we sacrifice our spending on other areas it is well worth it because we must rid these areas of drugs," he says. "I'm not saying I'm not satisfied with [housing police] to the point we should say scrap them entirely. They could work together [with the Muslims]."

Security has long been a major concern to residents who live at Lexington Terrace, Flag House Courts, Lafayette Square and Murphy Homes -- the city's four high-rise public housing developments.

Recently, a policeman was shot in a high-rise at 127 S. Exeter St., in the Flag House Courts complex. The officer was shot in the head as he tried to arrest three suspected drug dealers.

Laverne Bailey, a Flag House Courts resident, says she would welcome Muslim patrols but she worries about their safety.

"The people around here have guns and will shoot them," Ms. Bailey says. "They patrol in nice suits and ties but unarmed -- which is admirable but not too safe in this neighborhood.

I think they're going to be like the Guardian Angels and say it ain't worth it."

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