Ypsilanti apartment complex residents push for more locks in effort to combat burglaries
On the afternoon of Jan. 7, Chris Haywood was listening to music on his headphones when he was startled by a loud crash outside his Ypsilanti apartment. He yelled, and the people who had kicked in his door fled.
Haywood believes it was the second attempted burglary in a month at his home. Previously, he said, he scared off people trying to break in by hitting the inside of the door with a baseball bat.
Residents in Ypsilanti’s Huron View Apartments complex are dealing with a spate of burglaries in recent months. Haywood, his girlfriend, Marcy Davy, and other residents say locks on exterior doors, which lead to the building's hallways and common areas, would help prevent this type of crime, but the complex doesn't have any — despite a city ordinance that requires them.
The residents say that property management is refusing to install locks on the outside doors and not letting others in the complex know about the safety issues.
Frank Daniels, a building inspector for the city, said Huron View wasn’t inspected since the city updated its rental property maintenance code in 2009, but said the complex now must comply with the ordinance. Last week, he mailed Group Five Management, the Farmington-based property owners, a notification that locks must be installed on the outside doors. They now have 30 days to comply, or they can appeal the order.
On Tuesday afternoon, Daniels met with a Group Five representative, who told him the company is looking into the cost and logistics of installing an intercom system and outdoor locks. Daniels said the representative also is looking into the state statute regarding locks on rental apartment complex's doors.
Huron View's management previously opposed a city order to install smoke detector batteries with a five-year lifespan. The company appealed that decision and won.
Daniels said he expects to know Group Five's plans regarding the exterior locks before the weekend.
Group Five managers declined to comment or did not return calls when contacted by AnnArbor.com.
A crime map on the Ypsilanti Police Department’s website shows that Huron View Apartments has the city’s highest concentration of burglaries for the period of November and December. In those months, 12 burglaries were recorded by police. The next highest number of burglaries reported in a specific area of the city is three for that time period, according to the crime map.
Haywood and Davy described what they and other residents see as the thieves' pattern: They strike during daytime hours when residents at the apartment complex, which is near Eastern Michigan University at Green and LeForge roads, are likely to be at work or school. The burglars will knock on the door to see if a resident is home, then kick in the door if no one answers. Because the burglars are already inside the building, they are hidden from view.
“They can come inside the building, and, at this point, it’s becoming clear to me the exterior locks have everything to do with the problem,” Davy said.
Davy said she had several conversations about the break-ins with Kay Bradley, a manager with Group Five. She said Bradley told her the complex would not be adding locks.
Regarding the new property maintenance codes, Davy said Bradley insisted the complex would be "grandfathered in," and the updated building codes wouldn't apply. Daniels said that is not the case. Bradley also said locks wouldn't solve the problem and would instead create new issues for the complex's older residents, who can't get to the door as easily, Davy said.
“Something is going to go wrong with one of these break-ins and someone is going to get hurt," Davy said. "When something does go wrong and someone is backed into a corner, what happens then?”
Davy pointed to other similar apartment complexes in the area that have locks on the front doors and fewer break-ins.
Jessica Klein is one of Davy's neighbors. She had her apartment burglarized in November. She said she also contacted Huron View's on-site management and was told there was nothing staff could do about it. She said Group Five has not returned her calls.
The complex's management recently organized two neighborhood watch meetings, but Holly Justman, a resident who attended both, said the burglaries were not a main topic of discussion.
Although there haven't been break-ins in Justman's building, she was alarmed by the stories she's heard from Davy and other tenants. She suggested placing fliers around the complex to alert residents, but was told by managers that they didn't want people to be afraid.
"Peoples' apartments (are) getting broken into and someone is going to get hurt," Justman said.
Management also employs security guards, but Klein said the break-ins still continue.
"Outside locks deter burglars, end of the story," she said. "There's no reason people should be breaking in in the middle of the day."
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530. For more Ypsilanti stories, visit our Ypsilanti page.