Apartment complex aims to repair tarnished reputation

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - In the last two and half years, police have been called out to the same East Texas apartment complex more than 600 times. Those calls ranged from incidents like robberies, assaults and even murder.

Now, that complex is hoping the community will give them a chance to repair their tarnished reputation.

Varsity Place Apartments are located at 3400 Varsity Drive, just across the street from UT Tyler. At first, the complex only recruited student residents, but now they're opening their doors to families.

There were nearly a dozen police officers at Varsity Place Apartments on Wednesday morning. Seeing multiple officers and the patrol units on the property is something the residents have grown accustomed to.

But Wednesday, those officers were not responding to a crime. They were celebrating the absence of it.

In the last three years, there have been at least three shootings at Varsity Place Apartments.
Two of those shootings were fatal, but the community was well aware that the crime didn't stop there.

"I would walk out my door and I would see caution tape and I was like, 'Ok. What's going on today?'" says resident Brandon Armstead.

After living at Varsity Place for two years, Brandon Armstead welcomes change with open arms.

"Varsity Place is the place to be, actually," says Brandon.

Implementing strict background checks and credit screenings has taken a hit to Varsity Place's occupancy, but a massive clean up was something the new management team, McKinley, knew they had to do.

"We'd rather clean up the community and make it a safe place to live, than to have just anyone living here and our residents moving out because of all of the chaos," says senior community manager Kesia Jordan.

"You can no longer just come in with a criminal background and move into Varsity and allow friends to live with you," she says.

Ray Aguinaga, the McKinley Management leasing director, says Varsity Place needed to get rid of everyone and everything that would become an obstacle for them down the road.

"Let us see what we can do to change your mind and hopefully we can make that impact on every single person that comes in," Aguinaga says.

Since new management took over at Varsity Place Apartments, their crime statistics have taken a dive. According to the Tyler Police Department, officers responded to 282 calls at the apartment complex in 2011. Last year, police were called to Varsity Place Apartments 340 times. So far this year, they've been called out there 24 times.

"We have a better relationship with the police department and we have a better rapport with the residents," says assistant property manager Deatrice Cotton.

Management says they know the community may still have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to Varsity Place apartments, but they hope, with these changes, they'll will live up to the community's expectations for safe and affordable housing.

Copyright 2013 KLTV. All rights reserved.