Aspen Heights Addresses Security Problems

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COLUMBIA - Aspen Heights held a community forum Tuesday to address security issues.

The President and the Chief Operating Officer of Aspen Heights, Columbia Police, MU Police, MU's Wellness Resource Center, and other student housing property managers were present.

According to Greg Vestri, President of Aspen Heights, the greatest issue is education about household safety and personal safety.

Some other issues discussed included communication among residents and staff, safety awareness and property crime.

Vestri said it's important to recognize that crime is a community issue and challenge. He said the best way to try to address it is holistically.

"The University, the city, other local organizations and properties here that focus on the students just coming together and sharing ideas, sharing best practices, explaining the causes and some of the specific issues each of us experience," Vestri said.

"I think we're just dealing with a lot of young people on their own for their first time," said Sergeant Joe Bernhard of the Columbia Police Department. "It's not just a false sense of security but more of them thinking it won't happen to them."

There are two courtesy officers on site at Aspen Heights. Staff set up alarm systems for households and taught residents how to use them. The staff works to constantly remind residents to lock their doors, windows, turn on alarm systems and not to leave valuables in their cars.

Vestri said Aspen Heights is working on videotaping security gate access.

"I think that will be the significant improvement that will help," he said.

Aspen Heights representatives are considering providing complimentary education for residents about what safety measures to take before spring break.

Officer Melvin Buckner suggested peer neighborhood leaders that students can report to if they don't feel comfortable talking to authorities.

"I'm excited about the other properties that came today," said Vestri. "Safety and security isn't a competitive advantage, it's a norm."