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Walnut Towers residents say security needs improvement

September 05, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Walnut Towers residents and witnesses to Wednesday morning's stabbing and robberies at the public housing complex said there should be more security.

"You got to be afraid to walk out in the hall," said resident Ralph Dick, 61.

Dick said efforts were being made to start a Neighborhood Watch in the building, but he said most residents aren't healthy enough to run to save their lives.

"We've been telling them that something has to be done," said resident Kathy Blickenstaff, 57.

Resident Bill Burton, 55, said he doesn't fault Hagerstown Housing Authority security for Wednesday's stabbing and robberies.

"They're just stretched too thin," Burton said.

"They used to have a security guard," said Clara Goyt, 74, one of the robbery victims.

Goyt and others said the complex on Walnut Street should at least have a guard from dusk to dawn.

Housing Security Director Rhonda Will said security patrols Walnut Towers twice a day during an eight-hour shift.

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Security personnel did not arrive with Hagerstown City Police on Wednesday morning when the stabbing was reported because they were not on duty yet, she said.

Entrances to the buildings are locked near the end of the security shift and unlocked in the morning, Will said. While the entrance is locked, visitors must be buzzed in by residents, she said.

The man charged in Wednesday morning's stabbing and robberies was buzzed in by a resident, according to records in Washington County District Court.

Residents can tell who they are buzzing in by watching a closed-circuit channel on their televisions, Will said. A surveillance camera shows and records constant footage of the main entrance, she said.

Dick said he thought the housing authority should do a better job screening people applying to live there.

But Will said background checks, including a criminal background check and landlord references, is conducted.

The two buildings that make up Walnut Towers have 150 units for senior citizens and people with disabilities, Will said.

Some residents complained about drunks in the complex who do not live there.

Will said security tries to respond to residents' concerns.

A monthly meeting is held for Walnut Towers residents with housing officials and Hagerstown City Police to discuss residents' concerns, Will said. The next meeting is Monday.

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