After a series of crimes, Aspen Heights tightened security regulations, which essentially bans house parties.
The change occurred soon after the last displaced residents moved into their homes Oct. 5.
Crimes spark heightened rules to limit guests
On Aug. 30, an armed robbery occurred at Aspen Heights and, Oct. 5, shots were fired at a party, according to a Columbia Police Department news release.
No one is able to prevent crime fully, Aspen Heights spokesman Stuart Watkins said.
“No matter how many security measures are in place, we can’t 100 percent prevent someone coming onto the property with ill intentions,” Watkins said.
The crime is not just the criminals; residents need to take responsibility, sophomore Connor Silverstein said.
“You need to lock your door,” Silverstein said. “A lot of it comes down to whether people are being adults or not, if they’re locking their door.”
On the Aspen Heights property, there is a controlled-access gate and a third-party security company monitoring the complex at night. Knowledge is the key to preventing crime, Watkins said.
“One of the things, I think, we are really advocating for on our end is really educating our residents on being aware for any type of suspicious behavior on the property and immediately report it,” Watkins said. “Moving forward, we want our residents to know if they feel something is out of place to immediately call the Columbia Police Department or 911.”
The complex has tightened security regulations after these series of crimes in the area and complaints from students and parents, Watkins said.
“These types of measures are standard protocol for Aspen Heights, and we feel it is in the best interest of the community,” Watkins said. “Crime in Columbia is prevalent, and while we cannot guarantee that this is the perfect solution, we will continue to take the necessary steps needed to better monitor individuals entering the property.”
Only Aspen Heights residents and approved guests may enter the property, and residents can only use gate-clickers to get in. Each resident is limited to four guests per day, and these guests must provide the name and house number of the person they are visiting and their own name and number. Additionally, personal access codes no longer work, as residents gave them out to friends and strangers, according to an email to residents.
The new protocols will benefit the community as a whole, Silverstein said.
“It’s a pretty crazy time at Aspen,” Silverstein said. “As far as right now, (the rules) are what needs to happen because we’re paying money for Aspen Heights security. I think it’s needed. People need to settle down for a little bit.”
Aspen Heights has also given tips on how to prevent crime, such as locking the doors, not leaving personal items visible in a car or, when entertaining guests, making sure valuables are locked up.
Twenty to 30 guests were attending the party where the gunshots took place, according to the news release.
“We will address those repercussions with those individuals,” Watkins said. “That type of behavior is not tolerated at Aspen Heights.”
The tightened regulations do not have a definitive end, Watkins said.
“We feel that this is an interim solution, and we will continue to evaluate these measures based on the feedback we are receiving from residents and parents,” Watkins said.
Aspen Heights is now a target for criminals, Silverstein said.
“If I wanted to break into somebody’s place and I’m hearing (this), I would go, ‘Hey, that’s easy,’” Silverstein said. “Of course I’m going to want to come back here if I got that much cash.”
Aspen Heights homes have security systems and double-bolted locks on the front and back doors. Because of the security features, safety is not a concern, Davis said.
“I don’t feel that I’m not safe in that area,” Davis said. “I don’t feel threatened at all in any way.”
Not everyone feels as secure, Tran said.
“It is kind of scary to think about it because I just moved in, and there’s already crime going on,” Tran said.
Aspen Heights will do whatever necessary to keep its residents safe, Watkins said.
“These new procedures reflect the willingness Aspen Heights has to provide a positive living experience for all residents,” Watkins said. “We will continue to make any changes necessary to meet the needs of our residents.”
The protocol will hopefully make residents think about what they do when they are away from their houses, Silverstein said.
“Do I think it’ll work? Not really,” Silverstein said. “It’s just a matter of whether people get smart. This is a lesson: Lock your doors.”
Aspen Heights held an open forum for residents and parents Monday and will hold a second on Wednesday to address any concerns.
It’s time to move forward in Aspen Height’s development and begin to focus on next year, especially renewing leases, Watkins said.
“This was not ideal for Aspen Heights, but we’re moving forward, and we’re excited about the complex being completed in full, and we look forward to many, many more years here in Columbia,” Watkins said.
Displaced residents move into homes after delays
All Aspen Heights residents are moved in after delays from construction during the past year.
The Aspen Heights timeline was divided into four “phases.” Phase four included homes that were on a delayed construction timeline. The residents of these homes were able to move in Oct. 5.
“Besides the weather being a little bit rainy, it was extremely smooth transition and Aspen Heights is really excited to get everyone into their houses and start enjoying their school year at Aspen Heights,” Watkins said.
Phase four included 60 residents. On top of this, an additional 30 tenants signed leases knowing they would not be able to move in, Watkins said.
The homes were granted certificates of occupancy by Columbia and residents were finally able to move in, Watkins said.
“As far as move in went on Saturday, I hardly did anything,” Aspen Heights resident, senior Courtney Davis said. “They had campus bellhops load and unload all of our stuff so my move in went really smooth.”
Not everyone benefitted from the movers, said Linh Tran, an Aspen Heights resident and Moberly Area Community College freshman.
“Me and my roommates did all the moving ourselves because we got the email from Aspen late,” Tran said. “By the time we started moving, the bellhops were done.”
The house was in good shape when Davis moved in, she said.
“My house is great. I haven’t had any problems other than I didn’t have any caulking under my toilet but when I went and told somebody about it they had somebody there in like five or 10 minutes to fix it,” Davis said. “It was awesome; they were on it.”
The delay is not bad in the long run, Davis said.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Davis said. “It obviously didn’t go how I would have liked it to go. But now that I’m in, I’m glad I waited because it was definitely worth the wait to me.”
Aspen Heights will not forget what happened in the past year, Watkins said.
“It’s not something we will downplay,” Watkins said. “We took the delayed move-in very seriously and the organization as a whole has done a great deal from it.”
The complex is grateful to its residents, Watkins said.
“I think we have to really recognize those residents who were on that delayed move-in and really recognize them for their patience,” Watkins said.