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Gainesville apartment complex blames rise in crime on homeless people

Maria Eduarda Fossati, a third-year computer science student at the University of Florida, was about to leave her apartment when she noticed her electric scooter was missing from her living room, where she normally stores it.

“Me, my roommates and boyfriend were all trying to remember if we saw it the night before or if we heard something last night,” Fossati said.

After not being able to pinpoint exactly when they last saw her primary mode of transportation, they began to suspect someone had entered the home and taken it.

Fossati reported the missing blue Gotrax electric scooter to her apartment complex: Alight Gainesville, located at 725 NW 13th St. Fossati lives on the ground floor and says she did not lock her front door on the day of the incident.

The same morning of the possible break-in, a Gainesville Police Department service technician arrived at Fossati's residence. After asking Fossati a series of questions, she gave her the tough but unfortunately common truth: There is not much the police can do about it.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 5, Alight Gainesville sent out an email to its current and prospective residents addressing the break-in at Fossatti’s apartment, as well as mentioning other incidents.

“Within the last two months, Gainesville, FL, has seen an increase in the homeless population near the university,” the email stated. “Because of this, many of the surrounding apartments, including Alight Gainesville have fallen victim to several bike thefts and two break-ins.”

The suggestion of homeless people driving a crime increase at certain Gainesville apartment complexes raised eyebrows among some Alight residents, as well as advocates for the region’s most needy.

Alight Gainesville’s report of an increased level of bike thefts is in conjunction with the 60% increase of reported bike thefts to the University of Florida Police Department since last year, as reported on by The Independent Florida Alligator.

In January 2024, the Gainesville Police Department had 40 incident reports relating to the theft, burglaries or damage to bikes, electric bikes and electric scooters. As for burglaries, which is what happened to Fossati, according to the Gainesville Police Department, there was a 43% increase from 2022 to 2023.

The department’s count of 2023’s total number of crimes in the city was 5,920, as opposed to 5,545 total in 2022, which is an almost 7% increase.

Various items, including a shopping cart, appear in the forest behind Alight Gainesville. (Tomas Curcio/WUFT News)
Various items, including a shopping cart, appear in the forest behind Alight Gainesville. (Tomas Curcio/WUFT News)

Fossati remains frustrated with Alight Gainesville’s response to the incident and lack of security cameras on the premises.

“I was just pi**** because I completely, 100%, thought we had cameras. So, I was like, okay, we can catch that guy, but we don't,” Fossati said. “Are we in the 1940s? We have so much technology and not a single camera viewing the street. That’s ridiculous, so unsafe.”

Alight Gainesville staff, including maintenance, front desk attendants and the courtesy officer, are unable to speak with reporters, according to a company policy.

A representative from the apartment complex said they would put WUFT in contact with a representative from the brand team of The Scion Group, which is the operator of Alight apartment complexes throughout the country. After notifying WUFT that “a colleague will call” as soon as possible, neither Alight Gainesville nor The Scion Group responded to any further communication.

Each year, volunteers help to survey the Gainesville homeless population during what’s known as the Point-in-Time count. The 2024 results have not yet been released, increasing the difficulty of making a data-driven assessment of the homeless population near Alight.

Keys to Home, a nonprofit entity acting as a lead agency monitoring and convening various organizations, such as Grace Marketplace and the Family Promise of Gainesville, helps to serve the homeless population in its designated counties.

Amber Miller, Keys to Home’s interim president and CEO, said the Point-in-Time Count is important in what it shows about Gainesville’s homeless population.

“I think it's easy for the general public to jump to conclusions or make assumptions,” Miller said. “But unless you've talked to that person that's on the street, you don't really know why they're there or how they got there. And, for each person, it's a different story. Not everyone has the same.”

Not just counting population, the Point-in-Time Count asks homeless people what factors contributed to their homelessness. The vast majority, Miller said, stem from mental illness.

According to the Keys to Home’s 2023 Point-in-Time Count, homelessness in Alachua County increased by 16% since its count in 2022.

The 2024 Point-in-Time Count was conducted on Jan. 23 with help from the Keys to Home’s various agencies as well as volunteers who signed up. Miller says she hopes the organization will have public results viewable by this month.

As for Fossati, this is the second scooter she has lost while living in Gainesville. The first was taken when she lived at the University of Florida’s Beaty Towers. After losing her lock, she left her scooter outside at the bicycle racks untethered.

“So, I have gotten my scooter stolen twice now, but this time was more aggravating because someone actually broke into where I live,” she said.

Fossati also said she has never felt bothered by the homeless population.

Her impression is that theft in Gainesville often involves “bikes and scooters,” she said. “So I don't think it's because of a supposed increase of homeless people that my scooter was stolen.”

Tomas is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing