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Friday, September 29, 2023

Midtown Apartments residents fear security breach, management denies allegations

Police arrested an Atlanta resident for assaulting a resident and trespassing at the complex Tuesday

<p>Midtown Apartment residents said propped doors, like the one pictured above July 27, 2022 contribute to the security breaches seen in the complex recently.</p><p></p>

Midtown Apartment residents said propped doors, like the one pictured above July 27, 2022 contribute to the security breaches seen in the complex recently.

“You're sure to find a space that is perfect for sharing with your future roommates,” Midtown Apartments’ website reads.

But residents’ group chats detail experiences with unwarranted guests: trespassers, squatters and homeless people. Alachua County Sheriff’s Office received 132 calls to the apartment site since May 2019, according to a report.

Gainesville police arrested Troy Robinson, a 34-year-old Atlanta resident, for trespassing and assaulting a 19-year-old female resident and UF student at the complex, located at 104 NW 17th St. behind Social at Midtown, Tuesday.

Robinson maintained he lived in the building despite management’s insistence he does not, according to the police report. Police found him with three pairs of long socks in his possession.

Management requested he be trespassed upon finding out he was also occupying one vacant apartment after another, according to the report. He was being held at Alachua County jail on a bond of $200,000.

The Alligator was able to contact management after seven attempts via email and several calls to three different phone numbers. On-site management, who did not want to be named due to not receiving prior permission from supervisors, denied Robinson occupied vacant units. The manager maintained he resided in the victim’s apartment; his belongings were only found within that unit, they said.

Carmen, a 22-year-old Midtown Apartments resident and UF astrophysics senior who requested to conceal her last name due to fear of retaliation, said she has seen propped doors, broken locks and missing door handles during her one year of residence.

“If it ends up that one of your residents gets murdered because of it or severely hurt because of it, that blood is not only on the criminal’s hands,” she said, “it is also on the apartment complex’s hands.”

Carmen, who is originally from Orlando, related the security at Midtown Apartments to the death of Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old UCF student who was found dead in the woods near an apartment complex in Orlando last September.

An investigation discovered Armando Caballero, a 27-year-old maintenance worker employed by Marcano’s apartment complex, illegally used a maintenance on-call key fob to enter her apartment and kill her after she denied his sexual advances, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

“Maintenance workers are not permitted into an apartment without being granted access via resident entered work order or unless otherwise noticed via WRITTEN notice via the office staff,” Scott Manning, the senior vice president of CA Ventures Student Living operations — which helps oversee Midtown Apartments — wrote in an email.

Florida lease laws require landlords to inform residents at least 12 hours before entry, according to a 2022 Florida statute.

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If management needs to enter a unit for an emergency without appropriate notice issued, Manning wrote, “All staff team and vendors must knock and announce themselves before entering in any unit.”

Construction, which began when Midtown Apartments replaced the 100-year-old Hurley House Catholic Gator members used in 2018, remains unfinished. Roger Development Group, the apartment’s previous owner, sold the 589-bed student housing complex to CA Ventures, according to a January press release.

While the old management was more diligent about informing residents about inspections and maintenance entry, Carmen said, new management became more relaxed about issuing entry notices.

“The standard for that has gone down significantly,” she said, “and it's something that worries me a lot.”

Midtown Apartments employs S3, a security company, to conduct routine patrols during the hours the Midtown Apartments’ front office is closed — Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m., according to its website.

The security contract also requires patrollers to control and walk the building several times, the on-site manager said. Latch, a digital lock system residents use to enter apartment corridors and units, was installed June 13.

In the span of one month after its installation, Carmen returned to an unlocked apartment door twice. She said she still fears the ease of access non-residents have to the building and individual units.

But, unless required by law, the former management’s rental agreement states, management is not liable for any loss, injury or damage to a person caused by criminal conduct of other persons.

“They're taking steps to not give us safety and security,” she said, “but they are taking steps to be quiet.”

Manning advised residents to voice concerns to the office phone number, one that is not provided on the apartment’s website. The complex, Carmen said, has changed its phone numbers and emails several times.

It has also ignored photos of homeless people sleeping in elevators and on lounge couches, Katelyn Gonzalez, a 24-year-old Midtown Apartments resident and UF mass communications law graduate student, said.

Some residents have resorted to last-stitch security measures. Sticky notes line several doors to warn people to stay away or knock before entry.

The day before Robsinson’s arrest she heard someone rattle her door handle. She soon learned other female residents witnessed Robinson roam the hallway, knock on doors and claim he was locked out of his apartment.

“With maintenance regularly entering units,” she said, “I fear I may have let the strange man into my own unit.”

Management maintains it has not received resident complaints about squatting, but Gonzalez said she fears for her safety every time she goes to sleep or leaves her unit to walk her service dog.

“We don't have any semblance of privacy or safety here,” she said.

Contact Mickenzie Hannon at Follow her on Twitter @MickenzieHannon.

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Mickenzie Hannon

Mickenzie is the local elections reporter and previously covered city and county commission for The Alligator’s Metro Desk. She's a fourth-year journalism major and is specializing in data journalism. When Mickenzie isn’t writing, she enjoys watching horror movies, reading, playing with her pets and attending concerts.

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