The challenge to change

June 2002 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

If we accept that we must live with sophisticated perimeter security, the challenge lies in improving security to combat crime without creating unacceptably threatening or crime- inducing living environments.

With crime firmly in the public eye, crime rates soaring, and the public perception of the resulting threats soaring higher still, there is little doubt that secure perimeter barriers are going to play a much greater role in providing us with the security now being demanded. While it is impossible to devalue the enormous benefits of CCTV and electronic detection equipment, sometimes these high-tech devices are of limited value unless used in conjunction with some form of physical barrier system to control perimeter entry and exit.

Downward spiral

The need for effective fencing systems that do not aggravate the underlying security problem by virtue of their hostile countenance needs to be more widely recognised amongst design professionals. Indeed, the negative perceptions created by aggressive security measures are one of the principal reasons why much security fencing does not enjoy a popular mandate.

In many instances, for example, the installation of over-aggressive security fencing can trigger or accelerate the classic downward spiral of decay characteristic of many rundown urban areas. In such fortified environments, contemporary research shows that crime becomes 'expected', a reaction that is often accompanied by an exaggerated perception of the actual incidence of criminal activity. Similarly, the fear of crime can be greatly exaggerated by surroundings that are overtly defensive.

Gated communities

Most designers would probably accept that it is only by addressing a range of longer term social and political issues, that crime is likely to be reduced or even contained in the long term. But, the general public wants to feel safe and secure today. The large numbers of fully enclosed 'gated' communities that are springing up all over South Africa are testimony to this.

Separatist reactions like this are not difficult to understand. Security and territoriality are two of man's basic drives. Therefore, when employing fencing, designers must strive to overcome the dilemma of providing security and territorial demarcation without contributing to the divisive forces in modern day society.

A modern perimeter system must help unite rather than divide communities by successfully accommodating a number of, sometimes, conflicting needs - safety needs, security needs, access needs, environmental needs and community needs. This can only be achieved if designers begin to understand the way physical barriers work and the vital role that perceptions play in society today.

For further details contact Nicolize Nursey, Bekaert Bastion Fencing Systems on tel: 021 905 4535.

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