City fires high-rise security Wells Fargo oversight of public housing lax, Baltimore officials say

'I am appalled dismayed'

Move comes one year after HUD forced end of NOI Security pact

February 08, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's housing authority has kicked out the company responsible for security at the city's public high-rises and is seeking repayment for graffiti and other damage that happened during the company's watch.

Wells Fargo Guard Services, which will cease guarding all seven public housing high-rises Thursday, is accused of allowing visitors to enter without checking their identification, security cameras to be stolen and buildings' interior to be defaced.

"I am appalled and dismayed at the deterioration of our family high-rise buildings," Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said in a written statement released yesterday.

"I am anxious to immediately bring these buildings back to a clean, secure state and promote their security during the remainder of their useful life," he said.

The action comes a year after the federal government forced the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to accept Wells Fargo as the public housing security force over NOI Security Agency Inc.

Three years ago, Wells Fargo bid $1.1 million less than NOI, a security agency affiliated with the Nation of Islam, but city officials thought NOI would do a better job.

In November 1995, officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development ruled that the housing authority "arbitrarily" hired NOI and demanded that the contract be revoked. HUD officials said that federal rules were violated and that the contract resulted in significantly higher costs to taxpayers.

Bids are sought

Local housing officials said yesterday that they are soliciting bids from security companies and should have a new company chosen by March 31.

Until then, housing authority police -- sworn officers with powers of arrest -- will oversee security.

Wells Fargo officials would not discuss the development yesterday. Bob Eddins, the company's general manager, said Wells Fargo attorneys are reviewing the matter and may respond publicly next week.

Residents applaud change

Housing officials said George B. Murphy Homes in West Baltimore and Flag House Courts in East Baltimore were especially hard hit.

Residents at Murphy Homes applauded the security change.

"Residents are happy about this," said Carol Jordan, who heads the Murphy Homes Improvement Association. "Residents said that they have not been doing a good job. They feel like they were lax."

Many residents said they would like to see the return of NOI. Housing spokesman Zack Germroth said NOI would have to submit a proposal to return and has not done so.

Pub Date: 2/08/97

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