OCALA, Fla. – In October 2019, News 6 last visited the Berkeley Pointe apartments in Ocala after several shootings. The Ocala Police Department said management promised to upgrade cameras, step up evictions, and fix the front gate.
A 7-year-old was grazed by a bullet while she was sleeping in her bed when shots were fired through her apartment wall.
At the time of the shooting, the front gate was broken. Tenants said it had been broken for a year.
Ocala Police Captain Steve Cuppy was asked to curb violence at Berkeley Pointe.
Cuppy said management fixed the gate in December, but a few weeks later it was broken again.
“Really what it does is keep an individual out who has no direct business here,” Cuppy said. “For whatever reason the gate didn’t work again in December and they had to come back out.”
Cuppy said sometimes tenants themselves will purposely ram the gate to disable it.
On the day News 6 had planned to meet with police again at Berkeley Pointe in early February, almost three months after the most recent round of shootings at the complex, technicians happened to be working on the gate.
By 1 p.m., technicians had repaired the entrance gate, the gate could only be opened by a resident’s keycard.
Police said they had notified Cambridge Management, which operates Berkeley Pointe.
Technicians also said they planned to upgrade the cameras to improve resolution.
"They [Berkeley Pointe Management] were in agreement on this and agreed to go ahead and replace all of the cameras with a newer version which is going to give us a clearer, crisper picture," Cuppy said.
Cuppy said the complex still needs more lighting to illuminate all corners of the complex and discourage drug activity.
He also said management needs to act more quickly to evict tenants who cause problems for other renters in the complex.
"One thing we see in HUD housing is a lot of times the tenant of the apartment is allowing the wrong element to come in behind and utilize the apartment for the wrong reason," Cuppy said. "So we asked the management to be aggressive in evicting those tenants that are allowing tenants to allow problem elements to come into the complex."
Cuppy gave the complex a "D" grade on making security improvements.
"I'm in the area of saying they're probably earning about a "D" grade in the areas of fulfilling the commitments to us that they said that they would do," Cuppy said. "We're talking about the cameras and the gate. The evictions are coming around now, they were a little slow at the beginning."
Cuppy said the police department, for its part, has stepped up enforcement by adding daily day-long patrols, issuing trespass warnings and arresting trespassers, and asking the State Attorney to prosecute people arrested inside the complex for drugs and violence.
"There was an enforcement element that was needed in here," Cuppy said. "We just needed to come in here and really increase our presence even more. And we've done that by doing in four months a little less than 800 self-initiated types of security checks in the complex itself."
But shootings have stopped since Nov. 24, Cuppy said.
“I know there is still an element in the complex that is not healthy for the complex and that’s a problem,” Cuppy said. “At the end of the day, we’re getting results in the sense that this complex today is better than it was the last time you were here. So results are coming.”
When News 6 visited Berkeley Pointe in October, management asked crews to leave and a representative in the Cambridge Management corporate office hung up in the middle of a phone call.
Cuppy said he discovered some tenants were leaving before their evictions were processed so there was no official record of the eviction. This would leave the problem tenant with a clean record when he or she applied at another complex.
Cuppy gathered all management of all HUD complexes in Ocala to make them aware of the problem and create a database allowing complexes to document problem tenants.
That database will give complexes critical information on a potential tenant that otherwise might be missing from his or her file, Cuppy said.
“The safety of our residents remains our top priority. We value our partnerships with the Ocala Police Department and N-Tac Security as part of our efforts to create the best possible environment for our residents. As always, we urge residents to help keep our community safe by reporting any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately,” Cambridge Management said in a statement.