Dorothy Scott has vivid memories of Flag House Court before Nation of Islam Security Agency began patrols in 1993. Drug dealing flourished, frightened residents cowered in their apartments and gunshots rang throughout the night.
Ms. Scott, a 27-year tenant of the East Baltimore public housing development, fears those memories may be painfully revived with the cancellation of NOI Security's contract to patrol the city's high-rise public housing buildings.
"I'm very upset. NOI is the best thing that ever came into Flag House," Ms. Scott said. "They brought back self-esteem. They made it a safer place to live."
Citing violations in the bidding process, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development instructed the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to cancel the contract with NOI Security earlier this week despite a drop in crime in the two years that NOI has patrolled the buildings.
Some city officials and residents feel that congressional pressure was put on HUD to cancel the contract because of the security agency's affiliation with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
City housing spokesman Zack Germroth said the city's "hands were tied" and rated NOI's overall performance as "exemplary."
Public housing tenants gathered yesterday at Flag House Court to voice opposition to the cancellation of NOI's contract and to show their displeasure with the hiring of Wells Fargo Guard Services to patrol the developments.
Residents said that NOI Security officers -- who were unarmed, smartly dressed, clean-cut and stoically polite -- were active in the communities where they patrolled and served as role models.
Some residents recalled that, in addition to their security duties, some officers would sweep floors and help children cross the street.
"But now they want to get rid of all of that for something that didn't work the first time," said Sylvia Holmes, a Douglass Homes resident. "Does this make sense? It's all because Farrakhan is associated with NOI, and that scares a lot of white people."