Local News

Fayetteville fed up with crime at apartment complex

Posted April 23, 2013

— A Fayetteville apartment complex has become so plagued with crime that the city is taking its owners to court to clean up their act.

A court hearing is set for next Monday in a nuisance lawsuit Fayetteville has filed against Southwood Realty, which owns Cambridge Arms Apartments, at 301 Barcelona Drive.

Cambridge Arms is one of the largest apartment complexes in Fayetteville, with 694 units and about 2,000 residents. It also is well known to police, who routinely answer calls there.

“Cambridge Arms apartments has become a consistent problem for us,” Capt. Ron Spatorico of the Fayetteville Police Department said Tuesday. "We have quite a few large apartment complexes in town that we don’t have near the calls for service out there."

In the last five years, at least three homicides have been reported at Cambridge Arms, as have countless burglaries, armed robberies, assaults, domestic disputes, drug deals and reports of gunfire. Police responded to 278 calls from the complex last year and 22 so far this year, according to the lawsuit.

Resident Crystal Long said that, in the past year, she's been assaulted twice and robbed at Cambridge Arms and that her apartment has been burglarized. Apartment managers act like crimes on the property aren't their problem, she said.

"It's pretty bad. It's unsafe for families and their children," Long said. "I've been hospitalized here. A man assaulted me and (choked) me in front of my children."

The lawsuit alleges that the complex "has been operated in such a manner as to make said place indecent, disgraceful and intolerable for the residents living nearby and the general public traveling the public streets."

"It's been shown over and over again that we can go in there and arrest people, but we can't continually go in there and arrest people," Spatorico said. "At some point, we have to have some cooperation on their part."

Although the nuisance suit could allow Fayetteville to seize the apartment complex, police and city officials said they don't want that result. Instead, they want Gastonia-based Southwood Realty to do a better job of preventing crime in the complex.

"I think the ultimate goal in this would be to get them into compliance and clean the place up," Spatorico said, noting that improved lighting throughout the complex could help eliminate some crimes.

Cambridge Arms Apartments in Fayetteville Apartments owner says Fayetteville nuisance suit exaggerates problems

Southwood Realty President Gene Ratchford Jr. said his company does extensive criminal and credit background checks on Cambridge Arms tenants and has hired off-duty police officers to patrol the property at night. He called the allegations in the lawsuit "a vast exaggeration."

""We're not trying to fight with the city," Ratchford said. "We tried to be very responsible. We tried to be responsive. We used their own personnel. Our screening process is extensive."

Fayetteville police have since pulled their officers from the complex in light of the lawsuit.

Many Cambridge Arms residents say they moved to the complex because of its cheap rents, but some now believe the cost of living there has become too high.

Long said she and her children are moving, and resident Elizabeth Murphy said she will leave as soon as her lease is up.

"It's like the projects here. People don't want to come to my house," Murphy said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • me2you Apr 25, 2013

    I'm tired of reading/hearing about crime in Fayetteville. Seems that's about all that goes on there.

  • kermit60 Apr 25, 2013

    "IT'S LIKE THE PROJECTS", isn't that another word for government housing? If the cops go in and arrest and it doesn't help what exactly do they want the owner to do?

  • Alexia.1 Apr 24, 2013

    How in the world can apartment owners be responsible for criminal behavior on their property? Can the state sue Fayetteville? Just as logical.

  • oleguy Apr 23, 2013

    Raise the rent, and clean the place up and the trash out,,

  • Cragsdale Apr 23, 2013

    I lived there for about 5 years almost 20 years ago.. crime was not prevalent then, but I can certainly attest to there being copious amounts of drug use by many people in the complex as well as 'home growers' and other dealers in drugs. But murders and rape and all manner of other assault based crimes were not happening, or at the very least the amount was such a minimal amount that it wasn't ever in the news.

    This story however bodes very sad for what I thought of once as home, where the community you all speak of was friendly and watched out for one another. That was of course back when it was privately owned and family run as a business. Then the current owners came in, painted a couple of walls, and I guess the slide into the slums started. Its very sad to me to say the least. There is a solution, and it's probably one of the ideas or many of the ideas posted by all on this thread it just needs to be filtered and put down in a positive light and presented and then ACTed upon.

  • didisaythat Apr 23, 2013

    Lady light blue and my2cents,

    That is great that you have been able to take advantage of the opportunities provided to you. But just because it does not apply to you two individuals, does not mean it is not happening and happening all too often. There comes a time when you have to accept what is happening out there, even if it makes a group look bad. Everyone knows not everyone in Section 8 are bad, but the problem is there are a large number that are and that is who the people fed up with the way they act are talking about.

  • beef Apr 23, 2013

    "In Carrboro, a company trying to upgrade and clean-up a notorious slum-plex is being picketed, attacked by politicians, and accused of racism for trying to get the place up to standards, raise rents to appropriate levels, and get rid of problem elements.

    You can't win...."

    That's the crux of the issue. Have you ever tried to evict a single mom with kids? Nearly impossible. Many of them know the system better than the lawyers. What does Fayetteville want from the landlord anyway? To discriminate? The Rev Barber will be all over that. Hire his own private swat team? That's what the governemnt is for. I guess it's easier to blame the nasty old landlord than it is for them to do their constitutionaly mandated jobs.

    Landlords have to be jurks to survive. The tenants deserve every bit of it.

  • tceawvzwvpev Apr 23, 2013

    I have worked in the apartment industry for many, many years. I have personally never seen anyone on public assistance get off it, but I have a previous co-worker who said he saw it once. It's a lifestyle. You can't blame people for it, they were raised to believe that it's totally acceptable. To change it, you have to change their belief system, and that's a totally different situation.
    But as a public service, I'd like to inform folks that there are limits to what we can do as management to get people out. Most of the time the people who are committing criminal activity are unauthorized occupants of apartments. We don't know that they're there. It's not the manager, it's your neighbors. We can't arrest people. We wish we could. If you're scared to call the cops, or if buy into the whole "No snitchin'" mantra, we can't help you. If your kid looks just like the folks selling dope outside the community and we ask them not to loiter, don't get mad! You do want it cleaned up, right?

  • ProudOfMySoldier Apr 23, 2013

    Ever since I have lived in this area (almost 11 yrs) that complex has been a major problem. Had friends that lived there when I first moved to the area and there was nothing but shootings drug deals and all going on there and still is going on. This place is horrible, but you get them out of there, they will just move somewhere else in the area. This complex of course is blacklisted for Ft Bragg

  • mfarmer1 Apr 23, 2013

    kbkline Cambridge arms is not public housing.