An unknown assailant fatally shot a resident of the Pine Estates Apartment
Homes in Riverdale, Georgia around 6 AM on February 4, 2019. A witness
saw the shooter speed away in a black BMW and found the victim, an Army
veteran in his forties, slumped over in his car. The shooting occurred
just in front of the man’s apartment. Authorities haven’t
released the name of the victim, but residents say that he mostly kept
to himself, and usually left early for work.
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While the shooter remains at large, there are questions about whether the
management of the Pine Estates Apartment Homes took basic steps to make
the apartment community a safe place for residents. Atlanta lawyer
Chuck Clay explains that there is well-established case law that allows victims of
violent crime to hold property owners and managers liable for not taking
basic steps to prevent crime.
“We know that proper lighting and functioning security cameras can
go a long way towards making a community less attractive to criminals,”
Clay says. “But, it’s even more important to have engaged
management that knows what happens on its property and addresses security
concerns quickly and sends accurate notices to residents when there are
Clay explains that it is easy for management to learn about crimes that
occur because anyone can ask local law enforcement or send an open records
request for crime data about a certain location or given radius. Unfortunately,
some companies willfully ignore crime that is occurring on the property
and later try to argue that they cannot be responsible for things about
which they had no knowledge.
“That kind of logic leaves people at risk,” Clay says.
How quickly property owners respond to critical maintenance requests can
provide a clue to how engaged management is in preventing crime. Reviews
on Apartments.com and Google suggest Pine Estate Apartment Homes management
frequently ignored maintenance requests for extended periods. In 2017,
Atlanta’s local news station WSB-TV aired a story that brought to
light resident’s complaints about critical maintenance issues. The
report featured a resident who had to rent a hotel room because a collapsed
ceiling left her unable to use her shower.
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Attorney Chuck Clay says that much of Atlanta’s crime problem could
be reduced if property owners and managers put a little more effort into
making their properties unattractive to criminals. “Bad guys like
to commit crimes in dark places where they can easily access and get away
from. If they think no one on the property cares enough to do things such
as fix gates or remove graffiti, then they consider it a prime target.”
Law enforcement works hard to solve crimes once they’ve been committed,
but they cannot stop crime before it happens. It’s up to property
owners to take some basic precautions that are well-known to deter crime
and make Atlanta safe.