In 2013 there were 131 crimes reported at Eagle’s Landing, formerly Village at the U, formerly The Cambridge. Through April of this year, the tally is at 34. If the pattern holds, that will put the apartment complex at 102. It’s a noticeable decrease, but it will likely be more drastic now that The University of Texas at Tyler owns the complex.
Major changes will be coming to the complex starting in August, according to UT’s press release regarding the handover of the apartments. The UT System Board of Regents approved the $20.3 million purchase on April 25, 2014. The school’s initial appraisal was requested in December 2013.
A leasing agent told MyTJCnews that current TJC students will only be allowed to renew their lease if they are taking at least one class at UT-Tyler. Their current agreements will still be honored until the end of the leasing terms, which allowed various lengths before the purchase.
However, the good news does not cancel out the bad in this case. MyTJCnews and KLTV worked together to find the root of the high crime rate at both Village at the U and the nearby Varsity Place.
“The other thing that the public needs to understand is that they also have courtesy officers there who are police officers … who handle petty issues or act kind of like a referee,” said Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Don Martin.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show 35 crimes from Feb. 9 2010 through March 13, 2014 ranging from theft, residential burglary, aggravated assault and kidnapping had been closed by Tyler PD. No arrests resulting in prosecution were made in these cases. Martin points to lack of cooperation from victims as the prime reason for having to close the cases. Martin also stressed that even though these cases were closed, they could be reopened anytime if sufficient evidence to make an arrest were presented.
“If we don’t get a response back from them within about a ten day period. Now, by closing the case, it doesn’t mean it goes away. It just means that it’s closed and we’re not looking into it anymore. But then let’s say all of a sudden something came up that was vital information to proving who did it, we reopen it … The only time it totally goes away is when the statute of limitations runs out on that type of crime and we haven’t charged anybody,” said Martin.
At the heart of the matter, there seems to be a great deal of confusion for the students. Many are fresh out of high school and from out of town. These students don’t know what they’re supposed to do and how they need to follow up on criminal matters.
Brandon Carmstead had attempted to press charges after his Nikon camera was stolen. Police investigated the matter and recovered the camera at a local pawn shop, but the case was ultimately closed due to lack of cooperation.
“Well, they did not try to contact (the suspect) after the first time. They just left a voicemail on his phone. After that, they did no further investigation. And they let me know that after 3 weeks that I could not file anything against him due to the time period,” said Carmstead.
At this point the narrative differs. Martin said detectives obtained a written statement from Carmstead in which he declined to press charges. Carmstead told MyTJCnews that “the Tyler PD really didn’t do much with my case. I never got (any) updates.”
Chloe Hodge, a journalism major and staff writer for the Apache Pow Wow, lives in the complex and has had issues herself. Village at the U used a compatibility survey to select roommates, sometimes as many as four students per apartment. Recently one of Hodge’s roommates was served an eviction notice because the student’s boyfriend was allegedly selling marijuana in the complex.
Unfortunately, two months later the roommate still lives in the unit. Hodge does not feel threatened by her roommate, but she did tell KLTV that the environment feels unsafe in the complex itself. She has been harassed and even asked for drugs while walking to her car at night.
Martin said the bulk of the offenders in the cases presented were non-students and non-residents. Some non-students are still under grandfathered lease agreements from Village at the U. MyTJCnews attempted to contact David Hall, the director of residence life and judicial affairs at UT Tyler, but no one in his office was available to comment on how these non-student’s leases will be affected now that taking classes at UT Tyler is a requirement for living in the complex.
MyTJCnews will continue to update this investigation as new information becomes available throughout the summer. For KLTV’s broadcast of the investigation, follow the link below.