Article030 Gated Communities Gated Communities -
Compiled by Steve Clark including similar comment by Professor Rudolph
Zinn from the University of Pretoria.
Gated Communities and others
I had already compiled this article when the topic came up in a meeting and a regional manager for a security company told me that my theory was already shared by some quite respected people. He mentioned the name Professor Rudolph Zinn, a criminologist who is contracted to the State. I Googled his name and read his findings. I suggest readers do the same. It makes some hard hitting points that to any person make sense, however I do not believe the bulk of the target market will consider them, let alone take heed. Be that as it may, what follows is my analysis on a crime problem.
In the last decade or so, many people have moved home into ďgatedĒ communities. (GCís) These have been marketed by developers as safe havens, out of crimeís reach where your children can ride their bicycles and you can relax on your lawn without fearing a deranged lunatic stabbing you in the neck. The downside is that crime is still occurring in these communities where it is perceived that these are the precise places which are supposed to have the lowest crime threat. Note that I am including retirement villages, complexes and flats in this subject.
Many of the GCís have high walls or electrified fences, guards at the entrance or the entrance is controlled by remote access or a pin code type keypad. Some GCís have roving guards in either cars, golf carts, bicycles or on foot yet property is
stolen and or people are attacked and sometimes tragically killed. Why? Didnít you move there to get away from that sort of thing? Even if you do not live in a gated community, have a look at my suggestions as they will apply to any property, house, a private flat or complex.
1) Boundary walls and fences.
In the Military we had a term which said, ďYour weapon was made by the lowest bidder.Ē That was a tongue in cheek comment which meant that the primary thing you have which is supposed to keep you safe and alive was very likely put to tender and the company with the cheapest price won the contract. Materials were probably not of the best quality, reliability was suspect and the guy who signed the document knew he would never have to carry one into combat. If the fence around your complex is electrified, is it actually switched on or is the body corporate saving a few bucks? Look at the walls, especially corners and remote areas. How difficult would it really be to get over it? Do big trees hang over allowing someone to use the branches, or is the tree damaging the wall? Are cracks showing? Is the boundary lit at night?
If you wanted to use that boundary as your entrance and escape, how would you do it? The other way is to use theÖ
2) Entrances and Exits.
There are pros and cons to every method or style of entrance. If you have physical guards on the gate it must be enforced that they do their job properly. Sect 27 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows for a Security Officer who is contracted to a private property to search any person, vehicle, premises or container entering or exiting that premises and if necessary seize exhibits. All this is well and good but is it is no use if not used correctly. My brother used to live in a village in Gillitts where every so often the gate guards would do a spot check on any vehicle leaving or arriving, no matter whether you were a visitor or resident. This was a good idea, and netted a couple stolen items from brush cutters to jewelry. If your guards smile and open up for everyone and anyone, there is your weak point immediately. A good idea is to have a visitor register where vehicle details and driverís details are entered by the guard from a driverís license or other identification.
Entrances that are controlled by remotes also have their share of benefits and weaknesses. A benefit is that only people with the correct remote can get in and out. A weakness is when too many remotes get into the system through loss, theft or misuse just about anyone can get in whenever they want to. Remote controls are not space age technology, take one to your local locksmith and he can recode it in a minute. If there are strict controls over who has one, your problems are reduced. However, people give copies to their domestics and friends and these again are prone to loss, theft and misuse. The exact same can be said for keypad controls. Who has the code? A further risk for these two categories of access control is the delay at the gate. Very similar to any residential property, this is the place where you are most at risk in terms of hijacking. You are at a dead stop in a choke point and you very likely did not have a good look at your surroundings before turning into the trap.
If there are foot or pedestrian gates, these too must have effective control exercised over them. You are living in a dreamland thinking you are safe if you knowingly have one weak link in the chain.
3) Vetting visitors.
This comes very closely after your access points. Your home, complex or village does not have to be a medieval castle, but you do need to know the nature and intentions of every person who comes into the property. People in your complex who have big parties with tons of guests are a security risk. If they like that sort of lifestyle, they should have a property of their own. It is very easy to just be the next person to ring the bell and come in. If you are the one planning a function, have the courtesy of letting the residents around you know about it in advance and have the discipline of controlling your guestsí behavior. The same goes for workmen, contractors, domestics or gardeners. Even if your Body Corporate demands you use a contractor off ďtheirĒ list, you must be assured that they are who they say they are, that they bring in the correct tools for the job (so they donít need to ďborrowĒ) and they leave with only what they brought in. Again, if you decide itís not your business, then you are the weak link. Once more, this is followed by the topic ofÖ
4) Who is your neighbor?
There is no rule to say that if Iím a criminal, I canít steal from people I live amongst. In some really big blocks of flats or GCís you canít even begin to know everyone who lives around you. But, you should be able to spot a stranger. You should get to know the people who live closest to you. I donít mean you must eat out of their pocket, but you must know that they are decent people like you and are no threat. If youíve known them for years, then fine, no problem. Be comfortable with who you are around. If I was a particularly sneaky criminal, I would rent a house in a Gated Community, rob the whole place blind and then move to the next village. How could I be so confident? Because you havenít got a good system on your entrance or exit, nobody checked who I am or my friends who come in and out as they please. But, most of allÖ
5) Doors, windows and alarms.
At the same GC my brother stayed in, you could install a house alarm, but it had to be X company. There were the gate guards, but also 143 speed bumps and people literally threw things at your car if you drove over 20km/h. One day we timed a ďpanic alarmĒ.25 minutes. Fifteen of them was between the gate and the house. Rapid response, anyone? You have a system, but does it work? If I was a criminal, that alarm is absolutely zero deterrent to me. Back to the Body Corporates. Some GCís have strict rules as to the colour of your house to what plants you may have in the garden to actually writing warning letters if your satellite dish isnít colour coded. I am not joking. So, what if you want to have a security gate on your front door? No! This is a safe community. Burglar guards? Not a chance, they look ugly, besides this is a safe community. We, as the B.C. definitely do not want people to think there are criminals amongst us by you having burglar guards! So once Iíve scaled your pathetic wall or got past your gate with my stolen remote control, I can pretty much push your window open and enter your home. I have at least fifteen minutes to play with if you have an alarm. Stop reading now and wait 15 minutes. Long hey?
But, I can actually go a step further specifically because of your safe community.
6) Plain stupid complacency.
This part I had to edit slightly as it refers directly to Professor Zinn. Once people move into a complex or GC, something triggers in their brain that makes them think that all reasonable precautions that they would normally take may now slide off the edge of the earth. Your windows, with no burglar guards, are left open and a laptop is on the desk within armís reach and soft whistling is coming from the toilet. By the time you flush, that laptop is in my bakkie and Iím out the gate. Tell me Iím exaggerating or lying. Iíll use my brotherís GC again. We watched his next door neighbors heard up the kids and take a leisurely stroll down the road. They didnít even think of closing the front door. He said they did that all the time. I asked why he didnít steal something. He just smiled. Regularly when I visited, as I drove at 21km/h down the road dodging pot plants thrown at me, I looked closely at cars parked in driveways. Most driveways were only a few meters long so I could get a good look. On a frequent basis windows were left down and a good few times doors stood open leaking left over shopping and toys. Nobody cared about plain, simple caution anymore. There was that electrified fence, two unarmed guards at the gate and dare you get past the speed bumps, it was a safe community.
It was as if I was on a different planet as I went through those gates. The problem was that it wasnít safe. In the three years he lived there, my brother told me of over twenty crimes, he knew of, that took place within the fences. Tools, cash, handbags, purses and goodness knows how many laptops and cell phones stolen right there in the complex. People were rioting. The Body Corporate went into hiding and changed their names and the flames could be seen from the berg. No? Yes you are right. Nobody said or did a thing. Why?
Because it was a safe community and we wouldnít dare let anybody know otherwise.
I conclude by reiterating that the above points apply no matter where you live. If you have your own private home, a flat or farm, to actually live safely, you must address the above topics. There are many more, but I think thatís enough for now.