Image credit: Artem Bali
Gated communities or residential apartments have become an urban oasis of sort for the vast middle class community in India - a secure and a comfortable space within the city, containing within it all the private amenities that one can think of. The gates of these communities and apartments regulate the entries to a walled space that give an impression of it being insulated from the outside world and its ills.
While it’s true that gated communities and residential apartments are associated with lower crime rates as compared to non-gated areas, studies seem to indicate that long-term crime rates aren’t affected significantly. Besides, there are frequent reports of crimes committed inside gated communities and apartments by criminals who have managed to manipulate the security system or processes of at the gates.
A False Sense of Security?
Gates and walls can create a false sense of security in the minds of buyers of properties and residents that live within gated complexes. One reason why crimes continue to take place in a supposedly secure, gated space is because it leads residents to lower their guards.
Community associations may not take the right decisions when it comes to installing the right security systems. For example, opting for a low cost security system rather than one that is foolproof, or, stationing guards but not installing a digital visitor management software or access system can leave the apartments vulnerable to all kinds of dangers. These factors makes the community and its residents a soft target for offenders.
Security Issues in Gated Communities
What’s Happening at the Gates?
Most residential apartment gates are staffed by security guards with pen and paper registers. At best, some gated communities have transferred their paper forms to a digital form that is filled in by a security guard in a handheld device.
However, these methods are a replica of the traditional ways of visitor management and not foolproof. It is very easy for an intruder to get past such processes either by manipulating information or by piggybacking on another visitor or a vehicle. The likelihood of crimes increases as processes at the gates become mere formalities.
Hardware Failure, No Visitor Records
Most security measures at gated apartments are limited to installing hardware like CCTV cameras, alarms, or electronic monitoring systems. However, these are prone to failures and breakdown requiring regular servicing and maintenance.
While these systems have their advantages, they can be easily manipulated and tampered with. They also do not capture the details of each and every person that enters the gates, nor furnish detailed reports of people entering and exiting the premises unlike a digitized visitor management system.
A vast majority of the unskilled youth populace with basic education and qualifications in India are absorbed by the security services industry. Not all of them are well-trained in security and safety. In many cases, the guards are also made to run errands and other work of the residents. This is a clear signal for potential offenders that security at the entry points of the gated apartments can be easily breached.
Staff and Helpers Hand in Glove
Security guards and domestic helpers are an indispensable part of life in a gated complex as their services keep the community life well oiled. At the same time, there are many cases where guards and domestic helps have been found to be hand in glove with criminals. The chances of this happening are higher when they are hired without proper background checks and their details or day-to-day entry and exits are not monitored or tracked.
What Can Be Done?
When it comes to deterring crime at gated apartments, the adage “prevention is better than cure” holds true. Residential apartment associations must anticipate well in advance the security problems that their community is likely to face based on several factors.
Preventive measures are a strong deterrent for offenders.
Every gated community is different and their local dynamics also differ widely. Some complexes are premium and offer high security as a selling point. They are ready to invest in security measures. Some of them may offer many benefits inside the gated walls but could be surrounded by more crime prone neighborhoods. While some others may be receiving some civic benefits due to, say, their unique location. However, notwithstanding these factors, every gated community must have a basic security process in place - more than just paper registers or a guard or two stationed at the main gates.
Technology Is Key
We’re not talking only about CCTVs or electronic devices here. This is the digital era, and digitisation is taking over the security industry as well. A robust visitor management software can accomplish many of the security goals of any organisation or apartment complex at a minimal cost. On an average, a VMS costs less than a guard’s monthly salary and yet can track and monitor visitors and vehicles in thousands per day. It can authenticate any person or a vehicle in seconds and capture staff time logs and attendance. It can send alarms and mass alerts in an instant. Besides, of course, generating reports on demand.
"You’re being tracked" - A robust VMS can give out a clear message to ill-intentioned people.
Ensure Security Hardware Is Up-to-Date
Security hardware is another aspect of the security system of any organisation that complements the digital security processes. In fact, both software and hardware should be well integrated to the maximum extent possible. Hardware needs to be up-to-date in its servicing and maintenance. Look for the latest security gadgets that can be easily installed. Do not let costs deter you from considering a a technologically advanced visitor management system. As technology evolves and competition heightens, costs lower too.
Who’s Responsible for Security?
In the case of residential apartments, security issues should not be left in the hands of an association or a group. The adage - everybody’s business is nobody’s business - applies well to group settings and can prove to be dangerous when it comes to security issues. Assign major responsibilities to at least a small team, if not an individual.
Monitor the Security Guards
While the guards are busy patrolling the premises of you apartments, how are you monitoring and tracking the guards? How are they being hired and from which agencies? What is the process of assigning them roles and responsibilities? Who is in charge of tracking their duty reports? Again, digital technologies such as guard patrolling systems can be of great help. These systems monitor the guards and give you an in-depth overview of what’s going on at the gates and in and around the premises when no one’s watching.
Have a Strict Hiring Process for Staff and Helper
Ensure there is a stringent process in place with regard to hiring of domestic staff, helpers, workers, etc. If it is guards, check if they are professionally trained. An open and a transparent system of review and rating would help in hiring domestic help as they tend to be hired mostly on the basis of reference - it can be integrated with the overall visitor system.
A strong security system is a must for gated communities. Walls and gates alone cannot ensure security to residents of apartments. On the contrary, they could create an illusion of security that can lead to residents lowering their guards and becoming soft targets for offenders of various crimes. It is important to monitor and track who goes in and comes out of residential apartments and send the right message to potential offenders by installing the right processes and solutions.
Manual security methods can be easily manipulated. Hardware systems may fail often. A robust combination of hardware and software security systems based on the latest technologies, along with the appropriate manual intervention at the right levels is key to addressing security issues at gated communities.