Could the owners of the Oakland City West End Apartments be considered civilly culpable in the shooting of a 15-year-old boy on their property?
At approximately 10:30 a.m. on March 21, 2002, a 15-year-old boy was shot at the Oakland City West End Apartments. Police stated that a white Kia pulled up next to the victim and appeared to ask him a question. An argument ensued, at which point an occupant of the vehicle fired at the victim. The bullet entered through the victim’s arm, and continued through into his stomach. The teen was rushed to the hospital, where he was reported to be in critical condition. Police have not released any information about potential suspects, but have stated that the victim was a Clayton County Schools student.
Georgia Negligent Security Law
Under state law, landlords are required to take reasonable measures to protect their tenants from foreseeable risks, including the risk of violent crime. When there is a history of violent crime in a community, property owners and managers may be required to install adequate lighting, automatic gates, surveillance cameras, or even hire onsite security in order to deter crime and prevent their property from becoming a sanctuary for criminals.
A History of Crime at Oakland City Apartments
Neighbors interviewed in the homicide expressed concerns over the safety of the complex. The neighbor who called the police in the recent incident informed reporters that there had been another shooting just two weeks prior and that “gunshots are background noise.” A witness stated “We go through this every day. They shoot all throughout the night, broad daylight, 12 o’clock at night.”
Online reviews express similar concerns over security. “[T]hey shot through the window,” begins one resident, “what if my children were in there.” Another review states, simply, “shooting, [it is a] horrible complex [that is] not worth the money.”
Only Crime Victims Can Demand Justice
Law enforcement may be able to catch the perpetrators and charge them in a criminal court of law, but there is little that police can do when apartment complexes become safe havens for criminal activity. The families of the survivors of violent crimes can bring an action against a landlord or management company in civil court, where they might secure a monetary judgment. A judgment cannot undo their trauma or heal their wounds, but it can help with medical bills, moving expenses, and aid the family through a difficult time. In some cases where victims are awarded a significant amount of money, it can cause property owners and managers to make significant security enhancements to prevent future violence on their properties. If we can compel landlords to improve security on their properties, then we can help Make Atlanta Safe, one community at a time.
Only the survivors of violent crimes or the families of victims can use the civil court system to hold property owners and managers accountable when they fail to take reasonable precautions to protect tenants and guests from known threats. By holding them accountable, we can motivate property owners to make meaningful changes to prevent violent crime from happening to others. In that way, together, we can help Make Atlanta Safe.
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