Security is top of mind

May 2007 Residential Estate (Industry)

Crime is by far the largest reason people move into residential estates or complexes. These communities do not solve the crime issues facing the country nor does it combat crime, but it does create a safer environment for families.

This is the opinion of Danie Bantjes, chief operating officer of Top Security, who says that some of the issues facing people living in such communities are:

* People living in these estates/complexes often tend to throw basic security principles overboard and live with an exaggerated or false sense of security. We have come across houses inside these estates and complexes where the front doors, gates or garage doors would be left wide open throughout the night. People would go out for the evening or even on holiday leaving doors open or not activating their alarm systems. When they are confronted their response is normally "...but we are living in a secure estate and the guards and neighbours will look after our property. We are safe and we are paying for this..."

* Similarly, people think that by living in an estate or complex safeguards them from becoming victims of driveway robberies. Sadly our statistics show this type of crime still happens regularly within security estates and even complexes. People in security estates seem to be less vigilant when approaching their homes than those on the outside.

* Many estates, especially golf estates or estates bordering golf courses or nature areas have even more problems controlling entry into the estates due to the largely unprotected or inadequately protected fences bordering these golf courses and nature areas.

* Due to budgetary constraints, some residents' associations often only look at price when deciding on what security solution they put in place. This result in inferior products being installed or unregistered and fly-by-night security companies being appointed to look after their security needs. Needless to say this could have dire consequences on the security of all residents of the estate.

* The budgetary constraints mentioned above are nearly always caused by what I would call 'passengers' or non-contributing residents, residents who benefit from the security measures of the estate/complex but who do not contribute to the cost. This results in additional financial strain being placed upon contributing residents if they are serious about the security of the estate. To overcome this, some estates/complexes nowadays simply add the security cost to the monthly levy that each resident has to pay.

* During the first few months (or perhaps even years) of the development of these estates, security risks are probably at their peak. There is seldom any control over the access and egress of contractors or anybody else for that matter. Often, electric fences are switched off for prolonged periods. This significantly increases the threat to residents who are already living in these estates during the development stage.

* Developers offering certain levels of security to prospective buyers (eg electric fence on the perimeter wall) often install inferior products in order to maximise profits.

* There is no control over who moves into the estate. Criminals have been discovered moving into quite a few of the more affluent estates by either renting units or even buying properties. For obvious reasons this poses a serious threat to the security of the community inside the estate.

"I do not think the security threats facing residents of estates have changed dramatically over the years. However, I do think there are more mass residential developments these days than before, resulting in the development of these mega-estates taking much longer than before, which increase security risks. Also, the subject of criminals moving into estates seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, which brings about its own challenges.

"Each estate has its own unique requirements regarding the prevention and control of crime. The general solution would be to ensure that the residents' associations select a reputable security provider where both parties work extensively together to continuously develop the most effective security solution for the estate. I use the term 'develop' because unfortunately security measures are often only put in place after being put to the test through an event that would expose a particular threat. We must realise that criminals are opportunists and experts at spotting any weaknesses in security systems - it is what they do!"

Top Security's advice to residents is that "Security begins at home. Security starts inward and then goes outward", which means that residents must first and foremost take responsibility for the security of their own properties. Only thereafter should they consider the security of the broader community/estate/complex in terms of access/egress control and securing open/public areas as well as the perimeter of the estate/complex. "People should never rely solely on the security offered by the estate or complex for the safety of their homes and families," Bantjes points out.

"Residents of estates and complexes generally form security committees or associations who then manage the security needs for the estate/complex. Although the public is currently much more informed on security matters than a few years ago, due to the various restrictions and regulations pertaining to security as well as the specialist nature of security and knowledge required, the security is outsourced in the vast majority of estates.

"Residential estate and complex security does not exactly require rocket science. Often the simplest security measures prove to be the most effective because everybody understands them. There are essentially four areas that require security protection in any estate - the access points; the open areas or public spaces; the perimeter wall or boundary; and the individual properties. Typical security services would involve active area patrols in vehicles, on foot, bicycle or motorcycle; dedicated armed response vehicles; manned and monitored access control points; monitored CCTV systems for open areas, monitoring of fence alarms and panic signals etc. The list is virtually endless. The desired end result must always be to effectively discourage any criminal activity in the area.

"Top Security believes in working together with the community and/or resident's associations to provide unique security solutions within the framework of the budgets available to the communities/associations. Residential estate security has long since moved away from being the domain of the security service providers alone.

"Top Security also believes that any successful security solution has to involve at least three parties, these being the residents' association, the security service provider and the local CPF or police station. Key to the ultimate success of the security solution is effective and regular communication between these parties as well as the broader community/residents."

For more information contact Danie Bantjes, Top Security, +27 (0)11 450 3309, dbantjes@topsecurity.co.za, www.topsecurity.co.za




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