Commission Cutting Public Housing's Guards

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The Jackson Housing Commission hired two security guards for the Reed Manor Public Housing complex two years ago following a wave of violent crime and a brutal murder.

Despite the success they've had reducing the drugs and violent crime those guards are about to be taken off their post because of budget cuts.

And residents living there aren't happy about the proposed idea.

"Getting rid of the security guards is one of the worst ideas these people could have," said Vickie Hester, who lives in the complex.

Hester said she plans to move if the commission follows through on the plan.

"Once these security guards are gone...drug dealing is going to grow rampant in here, crime is going to go up, cars are going to get broken into," she said. "It's no longer going to be safe to sit out here like we do at night."

Hester isn't alone either. Several dozen came out Monday night to sign a petition to keep the guards with many of them sounding off during a the tenant association meeting afterward.

"Do we want to have the 'hood or do we want to put the neighbor back in the neighborhood," said one resident.

"We need security no matter how many cameras we have," added another.

The complex had security cameras and better lighting installed in 2012 but Patricia Ryals, president of the Reed Manor Tenant Association said it still won't be enough to keep them safe when the guards are gone.

"They're very much on guard, they know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it and that is what has curbed a lot of the crime here," Ryals said.

With the housing commission finding itself in a financial crunch after the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, slashed funding, Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin said the cuts had to happen.

"HUD is withholding payments and it's a struggle over there," Griffin said. "If you've got no money coming in you've got to stop that money going out and they've been plugging holes with fingers for the last few months and now the holes are getting too big and they're having to start to cut larger expenditures."

Ryals contends they're being treated differently because they are low-cost housing.

"It's not fair to the residents," she said. "We may be public housing but we are people and we have a right to be respected."

Ryals said she plans to send the petitions to the HUD offices in Detroit as well as to the regional and national offices.

In the meantime, the contract with the security firm expires Aug. 31 at which point the complex will lose its guards.

All of this comes on the heels of a report filed by the current president of the housing commission Michelle Pultz-Orthaus last week alleging two former executives on the commission misused and mismanaged funds. The document, which is several hundred pages long, details costly renovations to the housing commission offices and pay raises that are claimed to be unwarranted.

The HUD offices in Detroit are currently looking into the report.

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