High crime in the area around UT Tyler has led to many changes in how the community is policed. Those changes have led to staggering drops in the crime rate over the past two years.
The majority of the crimes came from two apartment complexes – Varsity Place, now 34 Hundred Apartments, and the Cambridge apartments, now Eagle's Landing.
The surges in crime were punctuated by the $20 million purchase of Eagle's Landing by the university in April 2014.
The Tyler Police Department maintains an Apartment Complex Crime database, which tracks all calls for service to apartment complexes each month. What the data shows is, the purchase of Eagle's Landing marked a turning point for the area.
UT Tyler Police Chief Michael Meaders said the school has taken a proactive approach to policing the area. He also credits changes in rental policy, which now guarantees only students live at Eagle's Landing, with reducing the criminal element.
"When you're dealing with campus housing, a lot of times there's a greater level of security that takes place," Meaders said.
With only students living in the apartments, the units are treated largely like dormitories. Resident assistants are on hand for minor issues - but also to enforce strict rules against drugs and alcohol, which contribute to other, larger crimes.
"You have resident assistants that live there, that work for residence life and housing, they're on duty 24/7," Meaders said. "They're our eyes and ears for the apartment complex. They usually catch things very quickly. They know what's out of place and what people don't belong there. That's a big part of it right there."
From 2013 to 2014, the complex saw a 10 percent decrease in crime, with the purchase coming mid-year. Last year, 2015, saw a nearly 57 percent decrease in calls. It should be noted the complex did see an increase in alcohol related citations.
"What you're going to see is alcohol and drug violations have spiked because we deal with those constantly," Meaders said. "(Tyler PD) responded to the bigger stuff, people weren't calling in on those. Our RA's over there, they make rounds constantly."
With the RAs available to help increase patrols, the campus can focus on rooting out people throwing parties and providing minors with alcohol.
While 2014 marked the beginning of a decrease in crime for Eagle's Landing, that year saw a sharp increase in criminal activity at Varsity Place, now 34 Hundred, which also borders the campus.
Calls for service between 2013 and 2014 increased by about 60 percent, jumping from 135 to 226.
Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Don Martin said that trend was finally reversed when the apartment complex took more initiative and began the process of removing residents who caused trouble after a change in ownership in April 2015.
Their plan seemed to have worked. Through 2015, crime at Varsity Place dropped by more than 70 percent, with just 67 calls for service.
TJC sophomore graphic design major Brandon Bell said he had heard the rumors, but since moving into the 34 Hundred just over a year ago, he has seen an entirely different community than what many still picture.
"Before I moved in I did my research and found a few articles that explained a few incidents, but the complex has since hired courtesy patrol, maintains the gates, and they rebranded," he said.
One factor in that drop was the sale of the property last April. As Christine Stephens' first year as property manager comes to a close, she is both optimistic and grateful to see new policies have had a positive effect on the community.
"It's been pretty rewarding. I want my residents to be able to have everyone feel comfortable," she said. "I just want to put a kudos out there to Tyler PD, because if we don't have our city police helping us, we're going to fail. We want to stop the problem before it becomes a problem."
Martin credits the complex with enacting and enforcing new stricter lease agreements. He said the complex has been quick to remove those who bring crime into the community.
Stephens also said the property has brought on full-time security patrols and works with Tyler PD to have their officers check the property regularly. This proactive approach has helped 34 Hundred shed its once battered image.
"I have never had any problems or seen or heard anything go wrong," Bell said. "I am able to walk my dog around the complex when I get off work, around 11:30 to midnight, with no problems and I have never felt unsafe."
Meaders also believes that proactive policies have made all the difference in keeping students safe.
"I think what we've done is we've created an environment that's less likely for violent crime," he said.
While alcohol and drugs will always be an issue in dormitories, Meaders believes nipping those problems in the bud will ensure larger crimes continue to stay low.
"What we're not having over there, that you would hear about before, is the shootings in the parking lot and pizza drivers being robbed," he said. "I'll take that trade any day."