Stolen cars, package thefts and trespassing are issues everywhere in Federal Way. Incidents at the Celebration Senior Living Apartments highlight these challenges.
Residents are advocating for better security at the apartment complex, located on 1524 S. 328th St. between Pacific Highway South and Celebration Park.
“Somebody got their car stolen out of the garage and that’s what kind of got me going,” said Frank Fields, a resident at Celebration who is also the Chair of the Senior Commission in Federal Way.
Police reports show many incidents of attempted and successful trespassing by unauthorized individuals as well as multiple car thefts on the property. In December, an individual entered the apartment building and undressed, and was seen masturbating inside.
When Fields heard about that first car that had been stolen, he said he asked, “aren’t there cameras in the garage? Can’t you see them even driving in and driving right back out? I mean, they’re pointing right at you and lighting up and everything.”
Community Manager Cindy Asher told The Mirror that a new camera system was installed within the last year at the apartments, which are run by the company Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations (SHAG). Asher said the upgrade added more cameras and replaced those that weren’t functioning properly. She said the new system also includes offsite monitoring by the security company.
If the company sees something suspicious, they call SHAG to see how they would like to proceed, she said.
Asher said another security company typically does a sweep inside the buildings once per night, then does a patrol outside a few other times. They carry pepper spray, but are not otherwise armed. This too was a new addition in the past year.
Despite these security improvements, Asher said there are still issues that seem to have no solutions.
“I can’t do anything about homelessness. I can’t solve their problems. All I can do is try everything possible to protect my residents,” Asher said. “And sometimes that is impossible.”
There are multiple other senior living complexes in Federal Way, but the Celebration Senior Living Apartments are the closest to city hubs.
In 2023, Asher held a meeting with the Federal Way police chief, a night staff member of SHAG and the Mayor to talk to residents about safety. Signs near the doors tell residents to not let anyone inside that they do not know personally.
Asher said she honestly doesn’t know how to fix these issues but that she appreciates how the city of Federal Way has been working to try to improve conditions, including their commitment to not allowing encampments within city limits.
Of the people who are trespassing or causing issues, Asher said: “That’s all they want – somewhere to do their drugs or a place to be warm. They’re not trying to hurt anyone.”
Asher tells residents to call police if they encounter issues, reminding them that police often determine patrol frequency based on the number of calls.
The impact of security improvements is welcome, but still brings challenges, according to resident Fields. One day he caught a man sleeping under the bench in a laundry room and later found the man’s stash of drug paraphernalia and trash on apartment stairs.
Fields said he talked to guards about the man, but said they told him they are “supposed to focus on the garage and outside.” Fields has security cameras installed outside of his door due to the issues with trespassers.
Another resident said that she’s heard that there are security guards, but that she hasn’t seen any.
“I don’t really feel safe there,” she told The Mirror. She did not want to be identified for fear of losing her housing. “People are inside that are not supposed to be there.”
Her car was stolen from outside the apartment building in January 2023, and she said she has had multiple packages stolen as well.
“We don’t have a mail room, so they just drop it in the lobby where anyone can come in and out,” she said. For her to feel safe, she said she wants “for them to monitor those cameras” and “really pay attention to what’s going on.”
In December, Asher sent a letter to residents after a particularly violating trespass. A man entered the apartments multiple times, stripped off his clothes and masturbated in the halls.
The Dec. 14 letter included a notice of the issue and an overview of safety tips: “With the cold weather comes the heightened concern of unwelcome intruders. Currently we are experiencing issues with a repeat offender. Included in this letter is a picture of the man in question. He has been seen naked in the halls as well as clothed.”
The letter stated that calling 911 should be the first response, not contacting the in-house security. The letter stated: “Security is not onsite 24/7 and does random checks during the night and early morning,” and that “a lot of security concerns are happening during the daytime when security is not on duty.”
Asher confirmed that despite police responding six times that week to calls about the nude man, including four times in one day, he was not located.
“The apartments are big and we do the best we can,” Asher said. “Even if we had security walking up and down all night, they might never see an intruder. If they get into one building, they can easily cross the skybridge to the other.”
There are multiple other senior living apartments in Federal Way including Meridian Court, Traditions and Willamette, which is also operated by SHAG, but Celebration is located the closest to a busy area.