Burglaries at gated community has residents extra cautious
COLUMBIA - In August 2017, Michael Stephenson moved into his new town home at Aspen Heights for the new school year. A gated community, Aspen Heights is usually quiet with few disturbances.
After winter break, however, Stephenson and his roommates returned home and found it rather unlike how they had left it.
Upstairs, a door was off its hinges and a kitchen knife, fork and hammer were found on the upstairs hallway floor. Among the things missing and presumed stolen: several hockey jerseys, video games and a backpack.
"I was home over winter break and I got a call about halfway through break that we had been robbed," Stephenson said.
According to Stephenson, the burglars tried to get in through the downstairs living room window, but were unsuccessful; several scratch and scrape marks were visible on the outside window frame.
However, Stephenson had left his downstairs bedroom window unlocked, and the burglars tore off the screen and got in that way. Stephenson didn't have any of his belongings stolen and it's unclear whether the burglars entered the home on the same day or if they came back a different day.
Upon moving in to Aspen Heights, Stephenson said there was a great security presence around the community.
"From August to October [there was] great security here," he said. "I felt very safe; they were very on top of it."
However, he said that strong security presence began to disappear as the fall semester entered its final weeks.
"The first week of November or second week of November, security kind of dissipated," Stephenson said. "The gates no longer had people stationed there at night and the gates were open frequently."
According to the community crime map on the Columbia Police Department's website, five burglaries took place at Aspen Heights in December 2017; one took place across the street from Stephenson's home.
One resident living across the street from Stephenson told me she was robbed as well over the winter break and had several speakers stolen from her home.
Aspen Heights said in a statement, "Aspen Heights takes the safety and security of our residents and their belongings very seriously...our on-site management immediately logged reports of those incidents and has been working cooperatively with the Columbia Police Department to try to identify those responsible...our security team remains on guard and property management will continue to work cooperatively with the police to bring those responsible to justice."
In addition to the statement, Aspen Heights provided a SpotCrime map of theft and burglaries that took place in Columbia from Dec. 17, 2017 through Jan. 14, 2018, as well as a file with details of all the crimes during that same period. Of the five incidents at Aspen Heights, four happened in the same block where Stephenson resides.
However, it's not just Aspen Heights that was victimized over the holiday break.
According to the SpotCrime map, a total of 10 similar incidents took place on adjacent Grindstone Parkway while 12 incidents happened on nearby Providence Road.
Isaac Schumacher signed a lease with Aspen Heights and will be living there starting in August 2018. He told me that the recent burglaries in the area don't concern him too much.
"There was a new security team that was recently hired at Aspen," Schumacher said. "So, [we have] yet to see if they are anything better than what they had before, but so far it's not going to take too much, I don't think."
But Schumacher is also erring on the side of caution.
"We're definitely going to lock our doors," he said. "I think that's an easy precaution to take...also [my roommates and I] have a dog so I guess you could say we might be one of the more secure places in the neighborhood."
Stephenson says he learned from his experience and has some obvious, but important advice.
"Look your doors; lock your windows and secure your valuable stuff," he said. "Keep [your valuables] out of sight. Also take valuables from your car inside. Lock your car doors and possibly leave on some lighting in the house. We didn't do any of that; it was completely dark so we looked like an easy target."
The full statement from Aspen Heights reads:
“Aspen Heights takes the safety and security of our residents and their belongings very seriously. It’s unfortunate that it seems that the residences of some University of Missouri students across Columbia were targeted over the holiday break, including Aspen Heights. Our on-site management immediately logged reports of those incidents, and has been working cooperatively with the Columbia Police Department to try to identify those responsible. Each residence where an incident was reported was immediately inspected by our maintenance team, and determined the alleged burglar(s) appeared to have entered through an unlocked window or door. Aspen Heights’ property management team has and will continue to remind residents about the importance of locking their windows and doors. Our security team remains on guard, and property management will continue to work cooperatively with the police to bring those responsible to justice.” – Aspen Heights Partners