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Is There Justice for a contractor Shot at Gateway at Hartsfield Apartments in Clayton County, Georgia?

Shortly after reporting to work at the Gateway at Hartsfield Apartments in Clayton County, Georgia early on the morning of June 18, a contractor was shot to death by an unknown assailant. Police arrived at 3:45am, shortly after a resident returning home from work discovered a body lying on the ground in the parking lot and called 911. Residents told reporters they heard gunshots.

Police have not released the identity of the contractor who was shot. They have no suspects and cannot identify a motive for the homicide.

Read the story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Unfortunately, shootings in Atlanta-area apartment complexes are not uncommon. Most shootings reported in the news are between people who know each other. They are domestic disputes turned violent or often gang-related. All too often, however, residents, guests, or workers at a community -- people with a right to be there -- become random victims of crimes of opportunity.

Some communities are more susceptible to crimes of opportunity than others, and there are proven remedies apartment managers and owners can deploy to lower the chances their complexes will be infected by criminals. Access controls like gates, proper lighting, and random security patrols can make a property unappealing to would-be criminals. Conversely, communities with open gates, darkened parking lots, and no evidence of watchful authorities can become havens for criminals.

It is unclear what efforts the management of Gateway at Hartsfield Apartments made to deter crimes of opportunity, but it is clear that Georgia law requires property owners to take reasonable steps to secure their communities.

The apartments advertised that they are a gated community, but it’s not clear whether the gate was working on night of the murder. On Google Reviews, one tenant reports multiple instances of gunshots in the community and notes several vehicle break-ins. The review claims management promised armed security, but was slow in deploying it.

Read the Google Reviews

If the community failed to provide security that was reasonable based upon reported crimes in the neighborhood, or if the security efforts the community made were incomplete or ineffective, then the community could share responsibility for the murder of the contractor who died in their parking lot.

There is a doctrine in the law called negligent security that says property owners and managers can be liable for crimes on their property -- if they knew that such crimes were likely to occur, and if they did not take reasonable steps to reduce the likelihood of such crimes.

Atlanta attorney Chuck Clay says it is up to the victims of violent crimes and their families to hold communities accountable when they fail to meet their legal responsibilities. “Police can respond to crimes and chase criminals,” Chuck Clay says, “but they have limited ability to force property owners to make the changes necessary to reduce crime in their communities.” Only by action through the civil court system can we force management to improve security and help Make Atlanta Safe.

Pratt Clay for Make Atlanta Safe

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