Community Association Security

Community Association Security

It Can Be a Matter of “Life or Death” for Your Association’s Budget

by Terry Ottinger / Published Nov 2008



Crime, vandalism, and more—talk to any property manager or board member and you will hear a list of similar concerns ranging from vandalism and property damage to various criminal activities and theft. Those who are involved in running or managing community associations deal with these issues and the associated cost involved in these problems every year.

Communities today are also dealing with a new set of challenges. The turbulence in our economy, mortgage foreclosures, and layoffs have led to a higher rate of delinquency on assessments and are putting pressure on many association’s budgets. At the same time, there is an increase in criminal activity and theft. This combination of events has made community security and the elimination of the associated losses and costs more important today than ever before.

I served as the president of my own association for five years. I also am the founder and president of a security business that for over 23 years has been working with many different community associations. During that time, we have found that security is a top concern of associations as is the impact of security related issues on the budget.

1108-community-association-security-secondary-pic-2 I cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard boards and managers say: “These incidents of loss and repair costs are killing our budget.” Per-haps this article will explain some of the basics of security and how certain security measures can actually have a positive impact on the budget.

Video surveillance systems, commonly referred to as CCTV cameras, have been used for over a quarter of a century and the benefits have been well documented. Vandalism, property damage, and theft have traditionally been fought with CCTV video surveillance systems. How-ever, the technology behind these systems has changed dramatically during the last 25 years. Unfortunately, many communities have older, outdated technology or systems that do not produce quality usable images or cannot get a good picture of a vehicle tag when needed.

Systems today are so much more than a method of watching for or gathering evidence to aid in the prosecution of theft. There is no denying that the basic benefits of video surveillance remain intact, but systems are easier to manage than ever before.

Access control systems for gates, clubhouses, pools, or other ameni-ties used to track usage by residents and control the unauthorized access and usage of these facilities by non-residents has historically been a separate or “independent” system. Today integrated systems are common where the video surveillance is integrated with the access control. This integration tightens the security into one seamless package that has proven to eliminate many previously uncontrollable security issues.

1108-community-association-security-secondary-picToday’s IP connected systems allow management companies, property managers, and board members to do everything they need to do re-motely. IP technology allows cameras and other systems, such as the access control, to be seamlessly connected over an IP network or the Internet. Connecting remotely using an internet browser, these systems are secured with user name and password, making managing these systems faster and easier. Property management companies are now offering security management for their clients as an additional service.

Video monitoring is another feature now available with IP based video surveillance and access control systems. Remote video surveillance with monitoring in certain situations can remove the need for a dedicated on-site security room and full-time security personnel at every community. Having a centralized security team monitor events in real-time across the Internet may provide a more rapid and targeted response when required. Remote video monitoring and recording is growing in popularity and widely used to reduce the number of false alarms, and it helps to qualify a security situation at an early stage, reducing the need for expensive call-outs from the police or private security firms. Some communities have been able to reduce or eliminate the human guard service in favor of these remote guard services now available thus saving tens of thousands of dollars annually.

Digital evidence provided by networked video surveillance offers the flexibility of digital media on which it is based. Video clips or images can be easily sent via email to police or security personnel. Circulating this information to other retail locations quickly could provide a rapid and proactive approach to preventing crime. The IP approach also puts the video evidence out of the reach of the criminal. Video and images are re-corded in real-time and then stored securely on the hard drive or off-site so they cannot be accessed or tampered with by any intruder, ensuring evidence remains secure, untouched and court-admissible.

1108-community-association-security-secondary-pic-4Intelligent, event-based surveillance enables businesses to adopt a more targeted, event-driven approach to security. IP cameras can be linked to key areas within a community such as gates, doors, pools, exercise rooms, clubhouses, or entrances and exits and configured to automatically activate and record when access is granted or events occur for a more intelligence-led security platform.

Positive budget impact may sound like a contradiction in terms when it comes to acquiring security. Thru the elimination of theft, vandalism, property damage, and the associated repairs; however, associations have discovered that video surveillance and access control systems can literally pay for themselves and save substantial amounts of money. Other positive impacts can stem from the elimination of unauthorized access to community assets like pools, clubhouses, and recreational areas. Some communities are using the access control system as a collection tool by restricting a particular resident’s access to certain facilities when they are late or delinquent in paying their assessments.

No capital outlay programs are being made available by a few select systems integrators who work closely with community associations allowing immediate access to the latest technology without a large initial budget impact. These companies not only specialize and provide video surveillance and access control systems, but they offer turnkey solution based programs.

Associations find turnkey solutions attractive. A good turnkey solution should include a free analysis of security related needs and a free site survey and system design. A knowledgeable company representative should be available to meet with and explain the solution options to the board of directors. Then if approved, the systems integrator should agree to purchase all required equipment, provide and cover all costs related to installation, provide operational training and ongoing 24/7 on-site service, maintenance, and warranty. As newer technology becomes available, you should have the option of upgrading the system so you don’t find yourself stuck with obsolete equipment in the future. All of this and more is available from select systems integrators, and all the community association pays is a fixed monthly fee, similar to any contract or utility service.

1108-community-association-security-secondary-pic-3These “all-inclusive” programs are overwhelmingly popular now because they provide a turnkey program without the capital outlay normally associated with these projects. This allows the technology to eliminate the losses, pay for itself, and typically save most association’s thousands of dollars annually. Additionally, these programs that include all service and maintenance costs can prevent hidden or unexpected repair expenses in the future.

Don’t gamble with your security—associations and property management firms have expertise in the management and operation of their communities. With the advancements in IP networked video surveil- lance and card access technology, however, it would be a gamble to invest in this technology without obtaining the support of a true security specialist. There are a number of companies who can offer you this new tech-nology. However, only those providers who specialize and have experience in commu- nity associations will have the required expertise to properly design and implement this technology, which will actually provide a solution to produce results. Selecting the right company may be the most important action you’ll take en route to discovering the financial advantage that can be obtained thru this new technology.

Terry Ottinger is President and CEO of United Security Alliance, Inc., located in Tampa. For more information, please visit