Who’s responsible when a crime occurs on a property?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When crimes occur on a property, who is responsible? The criminal who carries out the act? The property owners themselves? Or both?

It’s something our viewers often comment on and question when crimes happen where they live, specifically at apartment complexes.

Craig Aiken said it’s just now hitting him.

His 20-year-old son Cravion is never coming home.

“The last year been kind of rough since my son passed,” said Aiken.

Cravion was killed in a shooting at a Jacksonville apartment complex in March 2023.

An arrest was made in his case — but we don’t know the motive.

“They wouldn’t commit crimes if they didn’t have to. They wouldn’t steal, they wouldn’t rob, they wouldn’t do this stuff. A lot of people do this stuff to survive. I’m not saying they right,” Aiken explained. “I don’t have too much knowledge of the case right now. And I don’t want to speak too much on it. But I do believe that if the young man had better opportunities, he wouldn’t have killed my son. I believe that. If my son had better opportunities, which I gave him the world, he wouldn’t have been in that predicament to get killed. Product of our own environment.”

Those environments include apartment complexes with frequent incidents of violent crime.

The News4JAX I-TEAM went through our records of reported shootings and homicides at apartments in Jacksonville in 2023.

We found at least 46 people were shot — although not all shootings are reported — and 23 people were killed by gunfire.

Aiken questions if apartments genuinely improve security after someone is killed on their property.

“I just don’t think they do enough to protect the people that pays them,” said Aiken.

We showed him House Bill 837.

RELATED: I-TEAM: Apartment safety expert weighs in on the law designed to hold landlords accountable

It’s a law eliminating long-standing consumer protections related to negligence and insurance lawsuits. One change says apartment owners who implement “crime prevention through environmental design” can reduce their risk of liability for crimes against tenants on their property.

They have to follow these seven steps to have a presumption against liability:

  1. A recording security camera at points of entry and exits for ID and apprehension

  2. A lighted parking lot from dusk until dawn

  3. Lighted walkways, laundry rooms, common areas, and porches

  4. A 1-inch deadbolt on doors

  5. Locks on windows and sliding doors

  6. Locked gates with key or fob access in pool areas

  7. Door peepholes

Apartment owners must also train employees and review the prevention plan every three years.

“It’s lip service, and it’s not doing anything to keep the property safer,” said Todd Michaels, the President of the Florida Justice Association.

Michaels works to protect the rights of consumers and calls the bill a complete attack on crime victims, designed to put insurance companies over people.

He fought its passing in March 2023 saying it takes away incentive for properties to provide security.

“People can come into court and say, well, we had a camera, it was broken but we had it. We had a fence around our pool. We had door locks, we you know, we had lights, but the lights were out. And then they can then argue, you know, they weren’t perfect, but they substantially implemented it, they should be presumed not to be negligent,” said Michaels. “We proposed amendment that if a property, on their own, voluntarily decides to hire armed licensed security for up to 40 hours a week, which is actually an effective security measure, that they would receive a 10% discount in their insurance premiums. Not only did the insurance companies fight that, but the affordable housing industry also fought that. Well, why would they fight something that they could voluntarily do and receive that 10% reduction? Because this was about doing the insurance industry’s bidding. And it was done at the absolute expense of people, of safety, of crime victims, and they’re the people that are going to bear the burden of this bill.”

Co-sponsor for the bill, Rep. Tommy Gregory, believes this reform was needed to balance the state’s civil justice system and help cut down on the number of lawsuits — blamed for contributing to higher insurance costs.

“It incentivizes them to file frivolous lawsuits. And that’s one of the things that drives up insurance rates. So, the bill was at its core designed to address that abuse,” said Gregory.

We asked Gregory what research or evidence went into developing these steps and if they actually keep apartments safe.

“It basically says if you exercise due diligence, you do what, what you should do in terms of best practices for the state of Florida for the country for you know, security for residential complexes, then you should get a presumption that you’re doing the right thing to provide security,” said Gregory.

He said he does not think they considered adding security guards to those steps and believes the steps are enough to keep people safe.

Gregory mentioned adding mandates like security guards will make housing unattainable and unaffordable for people.

There is an argument that the bill is an attack on crime victims and takes away incentives for property owners to provide adequate security. Gregory said that argument doesn’t understand the facts of economics or law.

“Instead of suing the person that committed the crime, they would essentially just sue the closest rich person to them. (Criminals) don’t care about whether or not there’s a security guard or lights or people they don’t care about any of that, and where that victim and that victim’s family should be turning their anger and the frustration is towards the person who committed the murder,” Gregory explained.

We talked with a security company we learned about after a fatal shooting at an apartment complex in 2023.

Proteus Protective Services provides security to 10 apartment complexes in Jacksonville.

The CEO, John Jaeger, shared his vision for starting the company.

“We deal with HUD properties. We deal with, you know, just properties and apartment complexes in tough neighborhoods in good neighborhoods. And the goal is to create a relationship and work in the community with the folks so that they see us come on, they’re not afraid to come over and interact,” said Jaeger. “We’ve had some incidents on properties, where we were the trusted party, for people to come to talk – to they didn’t want to talk to the police.”

Proteus also works with the police, sometimes acting as a middleman to give them information.

Depending on the apartment contract, their security offices might not be always on the property.

Instead, the security company does threat assessments of apartments and gives recommendations on changes to make them safer.

We had Jaeger review the seven steps in the bill.

“I think they can encourage a safer environment; I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to completely prevent the risk,” Jaeger explained. “If you’re looking at it from a security perspective, is it better to have somebody on the property, you know, X number of hours, the reality is, it, it probably is a deterrent. But the risks could still be that something could happen.”

Aiken said apartments in rough neighborhoods adding security shows they care about their tenants.

“It’s just not going to stop here with my child,” said Aiken. “If we have to ask them to care about their own property, then we already lost. Look at us like we are human. Look at us like you’re not just throwing away money, you are investing in the community that’s going to give back to you.”

Craig Aiken is in the process of filing a suit against the apartments where his son was killed, and he’s not alone.

The family involved in the triple murder at River City Landing Apartments in April 2022 is suing based on negligent security for over $100,000, and families of victims in the triple murder at a Grand Park Dollar General are also suing for negligent security at the store and the shooters’ negligent parenting.

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