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Are Gated Communities Really Safer?


During the Renaissance, kings and queens would designate special residential areas to house their friends, family and loved ones. These secluded ‘communities’ helped elevate some to standards of higher class, and allowed royalty to single out their most loyal followers. Some of these communities also had advanced protection, such drawbridges, moats, tower guards and heavy metal gates. In the 1800′s, the city of St. Louis developed a system that gated off specific streets for ‘beer barons’, granting them a class distinction. After the huge real-estate market increase in the 1980′s, gated communities have been appearing in most every major city.

The Modern Gated Community

In today’s society, gated communities generally serve one main purpose – to prevent unauthorized access to the community. The three main types of gated communities are:

Security
This type of community is usually self-produced, by several individuals who wish to band together to “shut out” their neighbors. The gates are often constructed and implemented by the residents themselves. In most cases, a security gated community will be constructed in an area with extremely high crime, gang wars, or low income level.

Social Status
For some people, a gated community is all about social status. In order to preserve a certain way of life, some people wish to be surrounded by people that are in similar financial situations. The walls and gates around these types of communities are usually a marketing strategy by the community, in order to encourage residents to move in who wish to feel that they are of elevated social status.

Lifestyle
When people have a specific lifestyle, they may want to be able to share that lifestyle with their neighbors. Examples of lifestyle gated communities are: retirement communities, ‘back to nature’ communities, religious communities, horseback riding communities, etc. This type of community gives its residents a feeling of comfort and security, since they have the privacy to participate in activities that match their lifestyle choice.

Are Gated Communities Safer?

There seems to be some debate as to if living in a gated community does actually protect you and your family from crime. To outline the important points in this debate, we can look at some of the advantages and disadvantages (as well as their corresponding statistics) that may be present in a gated community.

Advantages
Depending on the specific security measures exercised by a specific community, criminals from outside may have a bit of difficulty trying to steal from homes in a gated community. Since the community has fewer residents, it’s possible that some people may develop closer personal relationships (this is especially true in lifestyle communities). In some cases, a gated community may include a gym, grocery store, post office and other luxuries, increasing the convenience for residents. Due to the relatively small population of some gated communities, it’s possible to become acquainted with everyone in your neighborhood. Knowing your neighbors has been shown to have an impact on lowering crime rates.

Disadvantages
It’s been proven by many law enforcement officials that gated communities offer their residents a false sense of security. Because they feel ‘safe’ behind the gate and walls, residents may not take basic security measures (such as locking their doors and installing a burglar alarm). In addition to this, some gated communities may not have a comprehensive criminal screening process for their residents, which may increase the risk of a crime being committed. If a gate uses a manual code, this code could be observed by a person outside of the community with intent to commit a crime. In an experimental study, a few investigative reporters drove to several gated communities in Naples, Florida. Without identifying themselves or giving a security passcode, they were admitted to all of the gated communities that they tried to enter (by security guards). It seems that if a person living at the community (or outside of the community) is intent on committing a crime in a gated community, they may not be inconvenienced by the community’s ‘security’ measures.

Conclusion

As with any lifestyle choice, it’s always best to do your research before moving to a gated community. Never assume that the security measures in these communities are enough to provide 100% protection against crime. Check to see if your community does criminal background checks, or if you have any registered sex offenders living in your community. Spend some time getting to know your neighbors. All of these measures, however small, can have an impact on reducing the chance that you will be the victim of a crime in your community.

… Planning commissioner Nina Lipton asked the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Rodney Monroe whether he had any data on safety in gated versus nongated communities. The police and planning departments matched up communities as closely as they could, looking at income levels, multi-family, single-family and other factors. In terms of crime rates, Monroe said, “We saw no difference.” – An Excerpt from an article by Mary Newsom (Source)