thomas_masters2_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

RIVIERA BEACH — A weekend murder at an apartment complex where residents and a local mayor have protested deplorable living conditions has raised new questions about security.

Melvin Horne, 24, was shot and killed at the Stonybrook Apartments, 1555 Martin L. King Jr. Blvd., on Saturday, Aug. 18.

The next day, three women, reportedly residents of the complex, got into an altercation in which one of them was stabbed, according to Riviera Beach police spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown.

Residents have held protests in recent weeks to complain of roaches, rats and generally distressing living conditions. Add violent crime to the list of problems, residents say.

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said management has cut back on security to save money, posing new safety concerns. “(Someone) was killed in broad daylight. With the number of children there, security should be onsite,” Masters said.

Global Ministries Fellowship, a Tennessee-based non-profit Christian organization, purchased the federally subsidized complex in April. A woman who answered the phone said that she was not allowed to comment.

Brown said Riviera Beach police previously provided security for the complex but management ended that arrangement although cops  continue to educate residents about crime prevention.

The complex is managed by the Miami-based company Miami Mar Inc., which could not be reached for comment.

Police have fielded frequent calls from Stonybrook  for various incidents over the years, Brown said, but she notes that the property has about 200 housing units so a higher call volume is to be expected with a facility that size.

“We try to increase the visibility of law enforcement officers and patrols there as a deterrent,” she said.

Masters is insisting that the owner and management also fix health and safety problems immediately. “No one should have to live in deplorable conditions with rats and roaches,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave Global Ministries Fellowship and Miami Mar Inc. 10 days to fix problems that need immediate attention.

“The issues are pest control, roofs and smoke alarms that could cause immediate problems,” HUD’s Miami field director Armando Fana said. “The roofs have been corrected, work has been done but needs a final inspection. The smoke alarms and pest control should be done within a couple of days.”

He said preliminary reports indicate that rats were found in three units but roaches are a more pervasive problem and each unit will need to be fumigated.

“The leaking roofs were a water source for insects and housekeeping with residents was also an issue,” Fana said. “Making sure residents understand their responsibilities needs to be addressed, as well.”

HUD representatives inspected the property in June 2011 but did not report significant violations at the time, Fana said. It is hard to tell how long the living conditions have been deteriorating, he said.

“The conditions of the apartments have not been well for a while,” Fana said. “The new owners have invested a couple hundred thousand dollars. They are committed to making sure conditions improve from now on.”

HUD inspectors from Jacksonville are expected to return for a re-inspection within a week after the Aug. 27 deadline to correct health and safety issues, Fana said.

The owners will have to submit long- and short-term plans for maintaining the complex which will have to be approved by HUD and there will also be continual monitoring of the complex, Fana said.