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Walnut Towers to get security boost

September 13, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

In the wake of a stabbing last week at Walnut Towers public housing complex for the elderly and disabled, the Hagerstown Housing Authority Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to increase patrols there and at another housing complex, at least through December.

On Sept. 4, a man believed to have been let into Walnut Towers by a tenant, took a woman's purse and stabbed an 84-year-old man who went to her aid, Hagerstown City Police said.

Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said that while that was an isolated incident, he knows that residents of the complex are scared.

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Some of the 60 residents who attended a Walnut Towers Tenants Association meeting Monday expressed concerns about security.

Increasing patrols at Walnut Towers and Potomac Towers, which also is limited to senior citizens and the disabled, hopefully will calm fears, Shankle said.

"If this is a measure that will make them feel more comfortable, we are willing to do that," Chairwoman Carolyn Brooks said.

Currently, there are security patrols of the two complexes twice a day during an eight-hour shift, he said. Under the change, which probably will go into effect next week, a security officer consistently will patrol Potomac Towers and Walnut Towers during the shift, Shankle said.

The authority also will increase security on weekends by hiring a guard to work part time, he said.

The board will look at the level of security again in a few months, Shankle said.

Meanwhile, the authority staff has decided to send a notice to the tenant who allegedly let the robber in, giving the tenant 10 days to move out, Lynn Williams, the authority's attorney, said Thursday.

Housing Authority Security Director Rhonda Will said she told the tenant the day before the attack that he could be held responsible for the actions of anyone he let in.

If the Housing Authority can evict that tenant and another tenant, both of whom have a history of opening doors to let strangers into the building, security at the complex would be improved, Will said.

Brooks suggested Housing Authority officials remind tenants not to let inside anyone they don't know.

At Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting, Councilwoman Penny May Nigh and Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said the Housing Authority needs to increase security at senior housing projects.

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.

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

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