ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - An Orange County apartment complex is celebrating a first late Thursday afternoon.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings will be there to officially certify the Beacon Hill Apartments as the county's first Crime Free Multi-housing Complex.
It's similar to a program that's been underway in Orlando for a couple of years.
Several residents in the complex told Channel 9's Mario Boone that the place used to be very dangerous and crime-ridden.
Gone are the days of
shootings and parking lot drug deals, according to Demings.
Residents said the change in their community didn't happen overnight. They said it took five years and many upgrades to the property.
The community had to go through
an extensive three-phase program outlined by the sheriff.
Some of the changes include a rigid applicant
-screening process, which keeps convicted felons from the property, adding peepholes to doors and putting up fencing around the complex.
Property manager Hazel Bridgeman said it took tens of thousands of dollars to achieve the crime-free designation.
"It was a challenge," said Bridgeman.
The result, residents said, is a much safer community for the people who live there.
"Very quiet, no crime, no
hangout," said resident Maria Rosario. "There's a lot improved. A lot improved."
Residents said tenants are taking more pride in the complex and keeping the grounds clean. They said their children can play outside again.