Place-specific residential estate ­security

March 2016 Residential Estate (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management, Editor's Choice

By way of introduction, crime prevention is not a ‘one size fits all’ effort. Some residential estate developments will require more attention and ingenuity than others in crafting an effective risk prevention strategy.

Christopher Cobb, director risk and compliance, University of the Western Cape.
Christopher Cobb, director risk and compliance, University of the Western Cape.

In designing residential crime prevention strategies, it requires several correct tools to get it right … and to keep it that way. It requires a risk assessment and audit function to separate fact from fiction, it requires training and written awareness to move from reactive to proactive response, it requires analysis to gain efficiency, and of course, it requires investigations.

Any savings will quickly disappear when we consider the extra time and energy it takes to do a job with the wrong tool. You wouldn’t think of owning just one golf club or one handbag, but we often accept having just one tool in our loss prevention bag.

I am always at odds as to why real estate developers fail to see ‘the whole picture’ and continue to ignore the fact that the best opportunities for applying crime prevention design strategies occur when buildings, street layouts, street lighting programmes, new subdivisions, shopping centres and housing projects are still in the planning stages and crime prevention principles can be incorporated before construction starts.

Furthermore, I am continually at a loss for words in respect of the following:

1. Architectural drawings that have been crafted by a professional team of civil, electrical engineers etc., often constitute the framework for designing the place-specific residential estate crime prevention master plan strategy.

2. Cost-consciousness is often looked at by bean counters in a cost effective/productive means at the present and usually counters any necessary security plans by justifying figures with such statements as, “It is not cost effective to implement at this time”, all the while not foreseeing the immediate future. This type of decision making often, at times does not weigh the risk factors enough since in most instances none have been provided in order to consider the maximum loss due to substantial interruption of an individual activity, direct cost loss, indirect cost loss, replacement cost loss and future loss due to events, whether implicated directly or not.

3. Electrical engineers, while generally having great insight in respect of their security and life safety technical products’ strengths and weaknesses, often do not possess an understanding of the unique risks faced by the various vertical markets. Often is the case that solutions being sought by end users fall woefully short in having the desired impact in mitigating risks due to this poor understanding of the end-user’s risks, which in many instances have not been identified (risk identification is the first step of risk management) and at the end of the day the solutions/designs often fail to adequately address and mitigate the risks, ending up with a piecemeal reactive approach that results in huge brand trust issues, negative exposure and additional costs.

4. Security advice in general is often being acquired from sales consultants, installers and other ‘experts’ whose knowledge is often limited and subjective to their field of expertise.

This article does not cover the pros and cons of the multitude of security and life safety technology solutions available for the residential market, but rather focuses on the continued opportunities of those responsible for improving on residential security design. Every building, large or small, creates a potential crime risk and planners and architects owe it to their clients to devise and implement effective security measures.

Change your thinking

Productivity, profitability, quality of life and life safety are concerns that affect policy makers – not specifically security or crime prevention for its own sake. Accordingly, chief executives, builders, architects, planners, engineers and developers will have to change their way of thinking going forward.

Once you get behind the eight ball, so to speak, you will never get ahead of it; you are always playing catch up. Dealing with life-and-death situations, one should never be anywhere but ahead of the game. The elements of risk that the security protection detail are assigned to avoid and eliminate should always be in arrears, ensuring that those elements always have to chase and run to keep up. If you maintain and control your direction and objectives, then the risk factor or vulnerability is reduced substantially.

While there is a price to implement an effective risk assessment and management programme, the price of not having the programme is far higher in the long term as over-confidence arises due to the threat usually being underestimated; and when the minimal programme becomes necessary, it usually only has a minimal impact on the actual risk.

In keeping with the theory that the quality of the physical environment impacts human behaviour, we know that crime prevention and community development go hand-in-hand. The essential role of the real estate developer is to see the whole picture and to see to it that physical design, residents’ participation, citizen participation, security, police and emergency service activities fit together.

In terms of physical design itself, the major task of the real estate developer is change the current practice of appointing architects and or electrical engineers in designing the place-specific residential estate crime prevention master strategy and instead look at appointing a professional security consultant to analyse existing and planned physical design, determine how it relates to existing or potential crime patterns, and recommend physical design countermeasures.

Use data to manage risk

Risk cannot be eliminated, but it can be managed. Risk can be reduced to a manageable level through the proper risk analysis research and assimilation of data. Followed by a thorough implementation of measures designed to terminate, treat, tolerate and or transfer the remaining factors associated with that risk.

Good security and crisis management policies and procedures evolve from an accurate analysis of perceived risk, which is far more effective than developing such procedures / responses post incidents that can have devastating effects. You need to know exactly what you are up against. You will not know which policies and procedures are necessary until you have properly assessed your risk. Likewise, you will not be able to allocate effective crime prevention resources without an effective analysis of your risk profile. Everybody knows that in order to make an informed decision one does so through the assimilation of data.

The first step in ensuring an effective place-specific residential estate crime prevention master strategy begins with performing a thorough risk analysis and environmental scan of the residential location, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the place-specific risk mitigation strategies identified and selected to effectively prevent crime.

In short, place-specific crime prevention involves the diverse array of coordinated environmental design, property management, partnerships with the residents and the body corporates in complexes and estates, and crime prevention strategies that can be deployed to reduce crime and fear of crime in a residential environment.

This is especially true since criminals’ modus operandi is often to act with the intelligence and involvement of people who work in, and who have access to, security estates. Often the threat from within is more devastating than the external threats. Consider how many homeowners possess firearms?

It goes without saying that the most effective place-specific crime prevention strategies take into account the geographic, cultural, economic, and social characteristics of the target community.

Place-specific crime prevention approaches go beyond narrow theories about environmental design or defensible space. The integration of strategies to modify the use and management of places has strengthened environmental design or redesign as a practical approach to crime prevention in varied settings. Place-specific crime prevention builds on crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, physical changes) and draws on the results of research on active crime prevention tactics (such as community policing and community crime prevention) to emphasise modification of design, use, and management of a specific place to prevent and reduce crime.

Crime displacement

The decision to commit crime is structured by analysis of the type of crime, the time and place of crime, and the target of crime. The criminal tends to move away from committing the crime if they perceived it as difficult or potentially dangerous for them to commit.

This phenomenon – called crime displacement – has important implications for many residential estate development projects. By far, spatial displacement (movement of crime from a treatment area to an area nearby) is the form most commonly recognised.

Crime displacement consists of five types, such as:

• Temporal – Committing the intended crime at a different time.

• Tactical – Committing the intended crime in a different way.

• Target – Committing the intended crime type on a different target.

• Spatial – Committing the intended crime type to the same target in a different place.

• Functional – Committing a different type of crime.

The strategies listed below provide a sound framework with which to view the possible interaction of a variety of crime prevention efforts.

Defensible space design strategies

Defensible space design strategies should be used in the design of new residential complexes to promote both the residential group’s territorial claim to its surroundings and its ability to conduct natural surveillance. It typically covers the following:

• Site design can stress the clustering of small numbers of residential units around private hallways, courtyards and recreation areas. In these restricted zones, children can play, adults can relax and strangers can easily be identified and questioned. Such private spaces can be created by internal and external building walls and access arrangements, and by the use of perceptual barriers such as low fences, shrubbery, and other boundary markers.

• Site inter-relationships design can be used to create semi-private connecting and common spaces between and among the private family clusters. Walkways, vehicle access ways, parking areas, recreational facilities, lobbies, and laundry and shopping areas can be designed so that each cluster relates to them much like each resident of a cluster relates to his common private space. Physical design can be used to further extend the sense of territoriality and the possibility for informal social control.

• Street design and design of other public spaces can be engineered to make these spaces into semi-public extensions of the residential clusters and their connectors. Closing streets to through traffic, installing benches and play areas near the streets, providing adequate lighting, and placing perceptual barriers to indicate the semi-public nature of the area can help to define these spaces as part of the shared residential group territory.

• Surveillance-specific design can be used in each of the above design areas to increase general visibility by providing adequate lighting, by reducing or eliminating physical barriers to visibility, and by the visibility-promoting location of key areas (for example, entrances, lobbies, elevator waiting areas, recreational and parking areas) so as to be directly visible from as many points of view as possible.

Territorial defence strategies

Territorial defence strategies emphasise prevention of property-related crimes such as breaking and entering, auto theft, and household larceny. Within this group there are five related strategy areas: land use planning, building grounds security, building perimeter security, building interior security and construction standards.

• Land use planning strategies involve planning activities aimed at avoiding land use mixtures that have a negative impact on residential security, through zoning ordinances and development plan reviews.

• Building grounds security strategies provide the first line of defence against unauthorised entry of the residential estate and offer social control mechanisms to prevent dangerous and destructive behaviour of visitors. The emphasis is on the access control and surveillance aspects of architectural design. The target environment might be a residential street, the side of a housing complex, or alleyways behind or between business establishments.

• Building perimeter security strategies provide a second line of defence for protecting residential occupants and property by preventing unauthorised entries of buildings. They involve physical barriers, surveillance and intrusion detection systems, and social control mechanisms.

• Building interior security strategies provide the third line of defence for protecting residential occupants and property by preventing unauthorised access to interior spaces and valuables through physical barriers, surveillance and intrusion detection systems, and social control mechanisms.

• Construction standards strategies involve building security codes that require construction techniques and materials that tend to reduce crime and safety hazards. These strategies deal both with code adoption and code enforcement.

Personal defence strategies

This strategic approach focuses on the prevention of violent or street crimes such as robbery, assault and rape, and the reduction of fear associated with these crimes. Specific strategies include safe-streets-for-people, transportation, cash off-the-streets, and citizen intervention.

• Safe-streets-for-people strategies involve planning principles derived primarily from the CPTED concepts of surveillance and activity support. Surveillance operates to discourage potential offenders because of the apparent risk of being seen and can be improved through various design modifications of physical elements of the street environment (e.g. lighting, fencing, and landscaping). Pedestrian traffic areas can be channelled to increase their use and the number of observers through such measures as creating malls, eliminating on street parking, and providing centralised parking areas.

• Transportation strategies are aimed at reducing exposure to crime by improving public transportation. For example, transit waiting stations (bus, taxi rank) can be located near areas of safe activity and good surveillance, or the distance between stations can be reduced, which improves accessibility to specific residences, business establishments and other traffic generating points.

• Cash-off-the-streets strategies reduce incentives for crime by urging people not to carry unnecessary cash and provide commercial services that minimise the need to carry cash.

• Resident intervention, unlike the three previous activities, consists of strategies aimed at organising and mobilising residents to adopt proprietary interests and assume responsibility for the identification of their assets, personal security and maintenance of security.

Crime prevention strategies

This approach involves security and police functions that support community-based prevention activities. There are two activities:

security/police patrol and resident/security/police support.

• Security/police patrol strategies focus on ways in which police deployment procedures can improve their efficiency and effectiveness in responding to calls and apprehending offenders.

• Resident/security and police support strategies consist of security and police operational support activities that improve resident, security and police relations and encourage citizens to cooperate with the security and police in preventing and reporting incidents.

Confidence restoration strategies

Since commercial and residential environments involve activities that are aimed primarily at mobilising residential and neighbourhood interest and support to implement needed CPTED changes. It goes without saying that without such interest and support, it is unlikely that programmes of sufficient magnitude could possibly be successful, particularly in many high-crime-rate neighbourhoods where residents have lost hope. There are two specific strategy areas to overcome this:

• Investor confidence strategies promote economic investment and, therefore social and economic vitality.

• Residential/neighbourhood identity strategies build community pride and foster social cohesion.

Protective systems

One’s approach to developing protective measures must be based on a systematic process resulting in an integrated protective system. An effective protective system focuses on protecting specific assets against well-defined identified threats to acceptable levels of protection. The system must be designed and organised in-depth (layered approach) that contains mutually supporting elements all proactively coordinated to prevent gaps or overlaps in responsibilities and performance.

Effective protective systems integrate the following mutually supporting elements:

• Physical protective measures, including barriers, lighting, and electronic security systems (ESS).

• Procedural security measures, including procedures in place before an incident and those employed in response to an incident. (These include procedures employed by asset owners and those applied by and governing the actions of guards.)

The following should be considered for system development procedures:

• The resources available.

• The assets to be protected.

• The threat to those assets.

• The risk levels applicable to those assets.

• The applicable regulatory requirements for protecting the assets.

• The applicable level of protection for those assets against the threat.

• Additional vulnerabilities to the assets (based on the threat).

Systems development

The key to applying a system approach successfully is to use a team approach. A team may include procurement, physical-security, intelligence, operations personnel, electrical consultants, IT, installation engineers and the user of the assets.

• Assets: Any effective protective systems should always be developed for specific assets. The goal of security is to protect life safety, facilities, buildings assets etc. The risk-analysis must be used to identify assets at risk. This process must include identifying all mission-essential or vulnerable areas.

• Risk levels: Risk assessments must be performed in order to determine risk levels – assessing the value of the assets to their users and the likelihood of leading to value ratings. Asset value is determined by considering the following three elements:

- The criticality of the asset for its user and the institution as a whole.

- How easily the asset can be replaced.

- Some measure of the asset’s relative value.

The relative value differs for each asset. For some assets, the relative value is measured in terms of monetary cost. The likelihood of the threat/risk must be assessed for each applicable aggressor category by:

• Considering the asset’s value to the aggressor.

• The history of or potential for aggressors attempting to compromise the asset.

• The vulnerability of the asset based on existing or planned protective measures.

Regulatory requirements

The risk level is the basis for determining the required protective measures for assets identified to be protected. For each asset type, there will be:

• Physical protective measures.

• Minimum regulatory/by-law compliance requirements, and

• Procedural security measures and counteraction measures.

Threat identification

The threat must be described in specific terms to help determine which of the institutions assets are vulnerable in order to determine and establish the necessary protective measures. This description should include the type of tactics that aggressors will use to compromise the asset, such as (weapons, tools, techniques etc, that are most likely to be used in an attempt). For example, the threat might be a forced-entry threat using body mass, specific hand, physical object, mechanical or power tools to occupy a venue.

The types of threat descriptions (known as the design-basis threat) should be used to design detailed protective systems to mitigate the institution’s risks identified.

Level of protection

Having performed a threat analysis, the next step is to determine the desired level of protection to be adopted which applies to the design of a protective system against a specified threat (for example, breaking and entering, student unrest, armed robbery, pilfering, and so forth). The level of protection is based on the asset’s value rating. The level increases as the asset’s value rating increases. There are separate levels of protection for each risk mitigation intervention.

Vulnerabilities refer to the gaps in one’s asset protection framework. These are identified by considering the tactics associated with the threat and the levels of protection that are associated with those tactics. For example, the general design strategy for forced entry is to provide a way to detect attempted intrusion and to provide barriers to delay the aggressors until a response force arrives. Vulnerabilities may involve inadequacies in intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and barriers.

Having identified where one’s vulnerabilities are the appropriate protective intervention and measures must then be identified to mitigate them. The key to effective development of protective systems is a partnership between physical security personnel and the installation engineers.

Protective systems integrate physical protective measures and security procedures to protect assets against a design-basis threat. The characteristics of integrated systems include deterrence, detection, defence and defeat.

A potential aggressor who perceives a risk of being caught may be deterred from attacking an asset. The effectiveness of deterrence varies with the aggressor’s sophistication, the asset’s attractiveness and the aggressor’s objective. Although deterrence is not considered a direct design objective, it may be a result of the design.

An effective integrated detection measure should be designed to:

• Sense an act of aggression.

• Assess the validity of the detection.

• Communicate the appropriate information to a response force.

An effective detection system must provide all three of these capabilities to be effective.

Detect and defend

Detection measures may detect an aggressor’s movement via an IDS, or they may detect weapons and tools via X-ray machines or metal and explosive detectors. Detection measures may also include access control elements that assess the validity of identification (ID) credentials. These control elements may provide a programmed response (admission or denial), or they may relay information to a response force.

Defensive measures protect an asset from aggression by delaying or preventing an aggressor’s movement toward the asset or by shielding the asset from attack. Defensive measures delay aggressors from gaining access by using tools in a forced entry. These measures include barriers along with a first response force.

Defensive measures may be active or passive. Active defensive measures are manually or automatically activated in response to acts of aggression. Passive defensive measures do not depend on detection or a response. They include such measures as blast-resistant building components and fences. Guards may also be considered as a defensive measure.

Most protective systems depend on response personnel to defeat an aggressor. Although defeat is not a design objective, defensive and detection systems must be designed to accommodate (or at least not interfere with) response-force activities.

In closing, when incorporating physical design changes, integrated intelligent driven technology solutions and management changes based on the findings of a risk and environmental scan analysis – enhanced security, improved property management and greater resident involvement – when integrated will effectively contribute to preventing criminal activity, reduce disorder, improve safety, and enhance the quality of life in residential settings.




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