It’s 9:20 p.m. on a Monday evening and a police car, rooftop lights glaring, is cruising between the aging concrete buildings that make up the Tower Village apartment complex. He is looking to find something — or, more accurately, he is looking to find nothing.
This Irving police officer is not responding to a 911 call; he is responding to a community’s call to prevent crime in the apartment complex neighboring the University of Dallas.
Making rounds through “Old Mill” is a relatively new nightly routine for the Irving Police Department (PD).
Since last October, the management of Tower Village apartments has arranged for courtesy officers to patrol the complex on a daily basis.
This change in police presence came after a small but steady increase in crime from 2012 to 2015.
Among the most common crimes are criminal mischief, domestic violence assault, theft and residential burglary.
Police records obtained from the City of Irving indicate that crime rates in Tower Village peaked in 2015 after climbing for four years.
While there were 28 reports of crimes in Tower Village in 2014, 2015 boasted 37 reports — including rises in drug-related crimes and robbery.
Property manager Patty Valdez, who began working at the apartment complex last May, hopes that increased security measures will change this trend.
Her past experience at a complex in Coppell, Texas, where she worked closely with the Coppell PD, prompted her to make similar arrangements in Tower Village.
“I decided to meet … with the police department and we were able to actually have the police from Irving service the community as courtesy officers, so that’s why you will see them,” Valdez said. “They are here every night.”
Valdez and assistant manager Shelina Musani seem optimistic about the recent changes.
“We always had courtesy officers — we have a different type now, and we’re working more with the city … when there’s a police presence, we’re doing more to deter bad behavior … from happening here,” Musani said. “Less bad things will come this way just because nobody wants to get in trouble with the police.”
“It’s great to have them because they’re here to service the community and service the residents,” Valdez said. “It really honestly helped us tremendously. I needed that presence and it took impact immediately. It’s just been good.”
The increased police patrols have done more than merely create a feeling of security — they have proven effective in reducing crime over the last several months.
In 2016 there has yet to be an incidence of a serious crime, such as theft or burglary, which were some of the most frequently occurring issues in prior years.
“In 2016 we haven’t had any incidence yet…by this time last year there was three,” Musani said, addressing the overall improvement in crime rates.
However, police reports show that this is not entirely true.
While there have not yet been any serious crimes recorded in 2016, Tower Village has experienced misdemeanors and general disorder.
In 2016, there have already been eight reports for various crimes in the apartment complex, including simple assault, criminal mischief and evading arrest on foot.
Despite the apparent improvement, many residents still express frustration with Tower Village’s living conditions.
In addition to criminal activity, the complex has consistently had problems with keeping the decrepit buildings up to code.
In January 2016, the apartments failed a city code enforcement inspection with multiple violations pertaining to issues with the maintenance of building exteriors.
The violations — which included simple problems such as damaged and missing window screens on several buildings — were ordered to be corrected within 90 days. A quick walk around the property indicates that this has not been the case.
Residents have complained about similar problems with the maintenance of their homes.
“I have brought up … concerns and they were very unhelpful. They said that they fixed things that they didn’t,” University of Dallas student Bailey Lipscomb said. “I always feel unsafe … my roof is caving in … it looks like it’s about to collapse any second. … There have been multiple drug busts and a possible bomb threat since I [moved in last June],” she said.
Records confirm Lipscomb’s claim: there have been five reports of drug-related crimes and one of terroristic threats in the ten-month period she has lived in Tower Village.
Colorful stories of unsavory experiences of living in the complex are common among the students of UD.
“[There were] shots fired two doors down with a squadron of cops who showed up with at least one heavily armed SWAT guy,” UD junior Martin Sentmanat said.
Despite unsatisfactory conditions, the apartments remain almost entirely occupied.
“They take advantage of the residents usually having no other living options and know that they don’t have to take care of the establishment,” Lipscomb said.
While the University of Dallas owns the property on which the apartments are located, the school has very limited control over the complex.
“We don’t do anything as far as monitoring [the management] … We do work closely with the management company,” UD Director of Student Life Doré Madere said. “Dr. Plotts and Pat Daly met with management earlier this week to talk about some of the changes going on.”
The school only involves itself in Tower Village’s affairs in the case of serious crimes involving students and is not informed of minor crimes.
“To my knowledge there hasn’t been … anything really bad that’s happened to any of our students. If there has, they have not reported it,” Madere said.
Luckily, the trends in crime at the complex have been relatively self-contained.
“As far as the crime that’s happening over there, we haven’t seen anything [carry over to the University’s campus] … what’s happening there doesn’t affect us,” Madere said. According to Madere, the most common crimes on campus are property damage and petty theft.
Comparably, theft and burglary crimes made up 22.2% of reported crimes in Tower Village in 2015. This was followed by possession of drug paraphernalia at 13.9% and criminal mischief at 11.1%.
However, management of Tower Village is more concerned by other issues in the complex.
“The biggest most re-occurring safety issue I can think of is people who are drunk and how they behave,” Musani said.
Both Musani and Valdez expressed that drunk and rowdy students often present a danger to themselves and others.
While it is clear from the shattered glass littering the property and frequent noise complaint calls about alcohol consumption, police records do not imply that this is the complex’s most pressing issue.
In fact, there was not a single report of public intoxication in 2015 — there was only one in 2014 and one the year before that.
On the other hand, there were eight reports of various types of burglary and theft, and two reports of aggravated robbery.
Hopefully, the installment of additional courtesy officers is working to change the tide: there have not been any reported crimes of theft or burglary in 2016.
Valdez explained that the management cannot guarantee safety but they are doing what they can.
“The word goes around if you have the presence of the police and they know that the owners took the initiative of allowing us to change and I think it’s great,” Valdez said. “It just shows we care.”