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Tuesday, October 26, 2021
METRO  |  CRIME

Gainesville Place Apartment residents air safety concerns following sexual assault

There have been more than 250 incidents reported to police over nine months

Gainesville Place Apartments, a student housing center, sits on Southwest 35th Place on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
Gainesville Place Apartments, a student housing center, sits on Southwest 35th Place on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.

At Gainesville Place Apartments, a woman was pulled away from her front door, dragged down the stairs and raped in a wooded area in the early morning hours of Sept. 10. 

Now, residents juggle coping with the trauma while also advocating for improvements to the complex’s security. Residents say management has been slow to address the problem.

Gainesville Place Apartments, located at 2800 SW 35th Place, had 258 incidents called in to police within the last nine months, based on a report from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. During the summer, residents witnessed instances of public masturbation, attempted break-ins and alarming behavior from strangers who didn’t belong to the complex. Residents described their experiences as dangerous and scary.

The victim from the Sept. 10 attack was promptly released from the hospital and Antwine Johnson, a 32-year-old Gainesville resident, was charged with sexual battery and kidnapping the same day.

Corinne Griffin, a 19-year-old Gainesville Place resident and UF sophomore double majoring in criminology and behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, said she’s expressed her worries to the front office many times. 

Griffin called police twice since moving into Gainesville Place Apartments in August. She worries for her safety and wants management to make security improvements. 

“I don’t feel safe here at all,” Griffin said. “They’re not doing anything, so we don’t know what else to do.”

SheGriffin  argued if an apartment complex can offer around the clock maintenance, then it should be able to do the same for security. She suggested management provide key fobs to bus drivers, but was told it’s not an option by the front office and her solution was dismissed without any explanation.

Griffin asked the office to add cameras around the complex but management told her it does not deter crime. She asked for a private security service and was told it has been considered, but she assumes nothing will come from it. 

But for the assault victim and the rest of the community, going back to their apartment complex where the attack occurred is a challenge. 

After the attack, the apartment complex, owned by The Collier Companies, released a statement to its residents to inform them of a sexual assault that happened “near or around the Gainesville Place community.” 

The statement outlined general safety reminders for residents: locking their doors and windows, parking in well-lit areas, securing personal belongings and not walking alone at night. The report also stated the complex requested extra Gainesville Police Department patrols. 

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Collier Companies didn’t respond to multiple emails and phone calls for comment as of Sept. 26.

Residents believe Gainesville Place could do more to improve security. Since the attack, residents have asked the front office to install cameras, keep the front gates closed or hire a security company. 

On Sept. 21, the complex released an announcement to its residents that it will improve lighting by trimming tree limbs around light poles. 

Some residents feel small changes won’t be enough.

Yasmin Figueroa, a 21-year-old Gainesville Place resident and UF senior majoring in health sciences, has lived there since August. She said her experience there has been enjoyable, but she and her roommates are worried about walking alone at night and the front gates that are always left open. 

Figueroa said she and her roommates have begun letting each other know right when they get home and frequently stay in touch. 

Angel Ramirez, a 17-year-old resident and UF political science freshman, said he relies on the bus system to get to class. He said the issue of the front gates always being open could be resolved with something as simple as key fobs.

He argued that since bus routes are not open throughout the night, it would make sense to close the gates after the last bus leaves the property.

Since the incident, Figueroa and her roommates have started checking in with each other regularly; Griffin feels the burden of security has fallen into resident’s hands and continues to advocate for better safety but is still doubtful any change will come; Ramirez, also longing for change, has since witnessed other residents purchase pepper spray to protect themselves in case of an emergency. 

Residents' daily routines have changed as they incorporate new safety measures hoping another incident doesn’t happen to them or any of their loved ones.

Contact Troy Myers at @tmyers@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @Troy_Myers1.

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Troy Myers

Troy is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in business administration. He previously studied accounting for two years at Santa Fe College but has since transferred to UFCJC. When Troy isn’t writing, he enjoys watching the UF athletic teams, going to the beach and spending time with his identical twin brother and family.


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