I-TEAM: Security company claims Eastside apartment complex is ‘one of the most dangerous properties’ it ever worked

Security officers are breaking their silence with the News4JAX I-TEAM after a weekend homicide at an apartment complex they used to patrol.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Security officers are breaking their silence with the News4JAX I-TEAM after a weekend homicide at an apartment complex they used to patrol.

After a man was shot and killed by someone this past Sunday in the parking lot of the Downtown East Apartments – formally known as Franklin Arms – the armed guards claim the weekend killing could have been prevented.

RELATED: Homicide at Eastside apartment complex has neighbors concerned about crime

“It’s a dangerous property. Frankly it’s one of the most dangerous properties that we’ve ever worked,” said Sean Saunders, the COO of Excelsior Security.

Saunders tells the I-TEAM that the Downtown East Apartments wasn’t safe, even for his armed security team, so that’s why Excelsior Security pulled its officers from the property last month.

Sean Saunders, COO of Excelsior Security, tells the News4JAX I-TEAM's Vic Micolucci his company had to pull its armed guards from the Downtown East Apartments because the complex is too dangerous. (WJXT)

“Their safety matters more to me than a paycheck. I never will jeopardize my officer‘s life for a dollar,” Saunders said.

While we were at the Eastside Jacksonville complex, we found bullet holes in the apartment’s sign.

“That’s an entrance and the other side is an exit,” Saunders pointed out.

Bullet holes in the sign for the Downtown East Apartments in Jacksonville's Eastside neighborhood. (WJXT)

Saunders says new management at the Downtown East Apartments hired Excelsior in October for limited patrols. He claims his guards saw everything from drug deals, to fights, to armed suspects, and says he warned management that the property needed more help – with no less than two security officers guarding at a time.

He says the two sides didn’t come to an agreement, and Excelsior canceled its security service in January.

“They were more concerned about saving a dollar than they were about actually fixing the property,” claims Saunders.

Saunders says he believes the killing over the weekend could have been prevented if ownership went with his recommendations for heightened security.

For perspective, Saunders says he offered to have two armed guards assigned to the property for eight hours a day for $2,900 a week.

“We terminated services and less than a month later, there’s a homicide,” said Saunders. “Somebody lost their life. It angers me. It angers me every day.”

The I-TEAM reached out to Downtown East’s ownership through their management company RGX Ventures. A spokesperson sent us an emailed response:

“It is unfortunate this incident occurred at our community parking lot, however, crime can and does happen anywhere and you are well aware that Jacksonville had its share of violence. Management has worked diligently with both private courtesy patrol services and Jacksonville police to improve the community and the reputation we inherited.”

RGX Ventures

They pointed out they installed security cameras on the property, which we noticed near the entrance. They also said they are working with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to increase patrols to deter crime. Saunders says it’s not enough“The cameras are a false sense of security. All it does is capture the incident and provide evidence after the fact. It’s a false sense of security. This property needs to invest in physical security with physical security officers on property for extended periods of time to show the residents that they care about them but also to clean up the property. It’s what needs to happen,” said Saunders.

The I-TEAM has asked the complex’s management for an interview, but so far, we’ve only received the emailed response from their management company. We also asked if they have a new security contractor but have not heard back. We continue to extend an invitation to the apartment’s management for an interview with the I-TEAM.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.