Could the owners of the Preston Hills at Mill Creek Apartments be civilly held responsible for the killing of a 30-year-old mother on their premises?
The Gwinnett County Police Department has arrested two suspects in an attack that left one woman dead at the Preston Hills at Mill Creek apartments in Buford, Georgia. The suspects are accused of luring Ashley Bocenegra, age 30 and mom of a 7-year-old son, to the Preston Hills at Mill Creek apartments where they ambushed her in a brutal attack.
The victim was taken to the hospital with severe injuries from the fight. "They fractured her ribs and her liver," Jessica Roche, the victim's sister said. The injuries were so severe, Bocanegra had to be transferred to another hospital, but she died before surgery could be performed.
Police have charged the two subjects with aggravated battery, robbery and felony murder.
Property owners who disregard frequent criminal activity on their property and don't take the necessary security measures to shield occupants and visitors from criminal dangers may be creating an environment that invites additional crime.
In Georgia, the law states landlords and property managers who fail to take reasonable precautions to deter foreseeable crimes, may be held accountable. Visible cameras, perimeter fencing with access-controlled gates, adequate lighting, and when justified by the level of crime, the presence of a private security guard have been shown to help deter violent crime.
In May 2021, a shooting left two people dead and two others injured at the Preston Hills at Mill Creek community. Police are asking for help from any witnesses to the gun violence.
Reviews for the property are highly critical over the lack of security at the complex. Multiple tenants report the gates are always broken and fail to keep non-residents off the property. Another resident reports frequent “fights in the apartments and on the parking lot in broad daylight.”
Property owners are required by Georgia law to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable crimes. When apartment managers ignore violent crimes happening in their community, it can lead to a cycle of violence.
Law enforcement may arrest suspects and hold them accountable, however there is very little policing can do to make landlords take the steps required to end criminal activity on the property – nor can they compensate the families of the victims.
Only the survivors of violent crime, or victim’s families, can file a claim in civil court against property owners and managers. It’s true that a civil judgment cannot ever fully compensate for the pain and loss resulting from a violent criminal attack; however, it can aid in medical bills, lost wages, and take a step towards recovering from pain and suffering.
When victims receive a big monetary reward, some property owners and managers may decide to take significant security measures to stop further acts of violence on their premises.
Together we can 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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