‘Somebody is going to die;’ Atlanta apartment tenants concerned over ‘violent’ squatters

ATLANTA — Residents in an apartment complex in downtown Atlanta say violent squatters have left them feeling imprisoned in their own homes.

Keith Gaines lives at the Commons at Imperial Hotel. He told WSB Tonight’s Courtney Francisco that he feels trapped at night as violent activities occur around his home.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

“It’s horrible. It’s horrible,” Gaines said. “We have had five fights in this building in the last week, and all the fights are people coming inside the building.”

Each night he says, intruders gather outside the high rise and when management leaves and they’re ready for bed, they use a crack in the sliding glass door to activate the motion sensor on the other side. Then, the doors open.

Residents shared photos of people sleeping on couches in common areas and shattered glass after they heard gunfire inside the lobby.

“I’ve got to the point I’m fearful. I’m afraid to come out of my own apartment,” Gaines said.

He wants 24/7 security at the front door where visitors must sign in with a worker around the clock.

Some tenants did not want to reveal their identities because they said the squatters are known for attacking those who call them out for breaking the law.


“Somebody is going to die eventually, and I don’t want it to be me, " one tenant told Francisco.

Atlanta Police Department records show 124 calls for help this year. The calls for service range from reports of trespassing to suspicious persons to fights in progress.

“They are in and out, knocking on doors, shaking your door knobs and everything, and it’s very scary,” one resident, Tony, said.

Tony did not want to share his last name but said he’s a Navy Veteran and is on the waitlist for other affordable apartment complexes.

“I’m embarrassed I live here,” said Tony.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Atlanta Housing and Urban Development said it provides rent subsidies to many people here, but Columbia residential manages the complex.

Francisco asked Columbia Residential what is being done to protect those who live at the complex.

The company sent the following statement:

In addition to providing security officers onsite from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days each week, we actively engage with the Atlanta Police Department to address security concerns through community visits. We have also installed access controls and a call box at the entry point of the building and will be adding access controls on the elevator and in the stairwells.