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Violence has plagued this Florida housing complex for nearly 50 years. Nobody knows how to fix it

By Andrew Boryga, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nearly 50 years ago, the Lauderhill Point apartments were built to bring safe, affordable housing to a blighted stretch of what is now Lauderhill.

Instead, the 22 buildings that make up the property have become infamous for problems that have remained consistent despite numerous name and ownership changes: Murders, shootings, gang control and rampant drug dealing.

From 2014 to 2019, Lauderhill Police said they responded to more than 2,400 calls at the property — nearly two a day. Among the 215 criminal reports they gathered were 14 cases involving a gun and six with a knife.

On Nov. 14, 32-year-old, Vedner Jacsaint became the latest victim shot and killed on the grounds. In July of 2019, a 5-year-old boy and a man he was with were shot and survived. In December of 2018, 24-year-old Dwight Higgins Jr. was shot and killed during an attempted robbery.

Shortly after Higgins' death, the Lauderhill City Commission passed a resolution requesting the current property owners, the Michaels Organization, put in place more security measures. But representatives for the organization, which owns several affordable housing projects across the country, say they've done all they can, including adding new fencing around the property, cameras and lighting fixtures. The real problem, they said: outside visitors they can't control.

With an overstretched police department on one side and a management company throwing up its hands on the other, the more than 600 low-income residents living in the apartments have few options.

 

One former resident who lived there between 2014 and 2018 recalled a loving community during the day time that was plagued by gambling, drug-dealing and gunfire at night. She said everyone knows a gang operates on the grounds and many residents are too afraid to speak to police or anyone else about problems. She asked the South Florida Sun Sentinel not to publish her name for fear of possible retribution.

"People just come and go and just deal with it," she said, describing her time at the apartments. "Hopefully, they come to a point where they are able to move out."

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Lauderhill Point sits in the 3100 block of Northwest 19th Street. It faces a cemetery on one side and a scrap yard on the other. Twenty-two buildings are concentrated in a thicket on the relatively small lot. Weaving paths connect buildings and common areas. Near the mailboxes is a flag pole with a tattered flag bearing the Michaels Organization's slogan: "Communities that lift lives."

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