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Guardian Angels' stay in Frederick less than heavenly


FREDERICK -- The Guardian Angels have pulled out of another Maryland city, this time leaving Frederick after clashing with public housing community leaders.

Curtis Sliwa, president of the Angels, ordered the Frederick chapter shut down last week after a dispute with a public housing residents' group over the group's policies. Last year, the Angels left Baltimore after clashes with police over patrols.

The Angels refused to comply with the conditions of the tenant council at Sagner Apartments, one of Frederick's public housing complexes that has been plagued by drug trafficking. The Angels had been using an apartment at Sagner as a base of operations.

One tenant council request was for black-only Angels, Mr. Sliwa said -- a charge that a Sagner official denied.

"The council made two demands on us that we could not meet," Mr. Sliwa said. "First, they asked us to take back six former members who had violated our rules and regulations. Secondly, they wanted us to eliminate white members from the patrols. We felt that was outrageous. We don't have quotas."

Clara D. Harris, president of the Sagner Tenant Council, said race was never an issue with her organization. "We didn't want all black," she said. "We just wanted more patrols. They had slacked off on the number of patrols they were doing."

She said of the six former members they wanted reinstated, three were white. "Is that racism?" she asked.

Mr. Sliwa said the organization, which describes itself as a civilian patrol safety unit, graduated 16 members from its three-month training program in October. They had 14 members when they pulled out of Frederick.

He cited a variety of reasons for the removal of six members, ranging from criminal activities to attempting to run undercover sting operations. "We don't do undercover operations," Mr. Sliwa said. "We are a visible deterrence."

The Angels will also stop patrols at two other housing complexes in the city, Mr. Sliwa said.

Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Guardian Angels came to Frederick in July at the request of community activist Edward B. Jenkins. "I'm in a state of shock and saddened that the Angels have left Frederick," he said. "The drug dealers and the addicts probably feel like they've won something and will probably move back into the areas where the Angels had gotten rid of them."

Frederick police and the Angels had several confrontations over the group's reported interference with police operations. Mr. Sliwa said crime was down at the housing complexes as a result of the group's patrols.

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