Mixed use malady

Crime spree rocks luxury West Ave apartments: New security measures put in place

Crime spree rocks luxury West Ave apartments: New security measures put in place

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The West Ave apartments have experienced several crime incidents. Photo by Ralph Bivins
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One resident tried to blame the Eddie V's valet system, but that charge proved to be false. Photo by Daniel Ortiz
News_Ralph Bivins_mixed-used centers_West Ave
News_bar_V Lounge_Eddie V's_West Avenue

The denizens of the Gables West Ave retail/residential complex have fallen victim to an Upper Kirby crime spree, which, according to police reports available online, includes incidents of aggravated assault and multiple apartment burglaries — three of which occurred the same day.

One current resident (who spoke on condition of anonymity) claims the spike in crime coincided with the opening of the Eddie V's restaurant. This West Ave tenant says that in order to maintain the establishment's atmosphere, valet drivers are not permitted to use the restaurant's guest restrooms.

"The property's management was so desperate for tenants, that they're luring companies with perks. So the Gables gave the valets fobs to enter the residential area and use the restrooms there," the resident claims.

"Incorrect," says Stephen Evans, area manager for Lanier Parking Solutions, which provides Eddie V's valet service. "We do not have access to the residential area at all. We have our own restroom that we use in the parking office, which is nowhere near the apartments."

Is this a case of luxury marketing and downscale security? "The management doesn't want to take responsibility or put up cameras, because they don't want to be liable," the resident tells CultureMap.

They keep changing their story. They say security is for retail only. The security is very lax. Sometimes you see the security officers hanging out. You can just follow somebody in. There's no checkpoint. They keep firing the concierges, so they don't know who the residents are and who aren't."

A recent Ch. 2 TV report also focused on West Ave crime, touring the complex, which revealed pry marks and a unit where a resident had installed a second dead bolt.

Rent at West Ave starts at $1,800 a month, and goes up to $3,900 and the high-end complex has found even its security getting robbed in at least one case. The Houston Police Department (HPD) website details a report of a West Ave security guard being robbed at gunpoint on Feb. 19. A resident complained to CultureMap that the management does not post notices about incidents unless coerced to do so.

"The only way we find out about robberies is if we text one another," CultureMap's source says.

Gables declined CultureMap's request to talk about specific instances or its incident reporting policy, issuing a general statement on the crime issue instead (see below).

This resident says that at one-time many West Ave neighbors left their doors unlocked, but now, "A lot of people want to move out."

Not everyone's complaining, though.

"I wasn't really excited about the building being portrayed that way," West Ave resident Erica Gillum tells CultureMap of the recent reports. "But I think it was actually a good thing that it brought our attention to the problem so that we can make some good security decisions. It's still where I live, and I really enjoy living there."

Gillum says that she would appreciate more security, as the ongoing construction renders the property all the more vulnerable.

West Ave is promoting a newly proactive approach, as described in an e-mail statement by Gables Urban director of marketing Missy Wyszynski:

Gables West Ave is aware of several incidents that recently occurred at apartment communities in the River Oaks area. Unfortunately, West Ave is not insulated from this and has been victim to several break-ins. Gables West Ave operations includes 24/7 patrol service of the building exteriors and parking garage, as well as courtesy patrol by an off-duty police officer. When Gables was first made aware of increased criminal activity, West Ave immediately responded with increased patrol services in the interior hallways and garages. As additional incidents have occurred, patrol services have been further increased. We have taken a proactive approach in addressing these issues by notifying our residents and scheduling a resident Crime Awareness meeting with a Houston Police Officer. As always, our focus is on our residents, keeping them informed and working with our associates to take any necessary precautions."