By Ana Rivero / Published April 2022
For the past two years, safety and security have been more about COVID-19 protocols. Maintaining safe distances, closing amenities, and altering cleaning standards have all eclipsed the complexity of security services that existed before. As we begin to shift away from those standards, it’s time to focus again on keeping our communities safe.
The self-serving answer is, as a board member you reside within the community and benefit from it being safe. On a larger scale, though, it is the association’s responsibility to provide a safe environment and protect the property values of the owners. Those values can be maintained through landscaping, amenities, curb appeal, and security.
It’s the board’s responsibility to resolve a safety issue in a timely manner, or there could be a liability for associated damage or loss. Always consult with your association attorney to assess your exposure, especially when related to safety and security. Look to your governing documents for guidance, but if they don’t expressly state the association’s responsibility, ask questions.
Start with what you know. As a resident in your community, you know your fellow homeowners or residents. There is a tradeoff between security and freedom. If your homeowners feel secure already, pushing for restrictive security measures may fall flat. If homeowners are feeling uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to launch a survey and collect information on perceived safety.
You should also know the crime rates for your community. Are incidences low? Then, it may not be the time to rethink your measures. Simply maintaining the current elements of your security protocols and staying up to date may be enough. But, if you’re seeing deviations, if rates are higher than are acceptable or going up, then it’s time to refocus.
Consider a security audit or assessment, especially if you haven’t done one in a few years. As the old adage says, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Cultural shifts have taken place over the last two years. People have transitioned jobs at an astounding rate. Industries, once bustling, are now suffering. Employees who once sat on a highway for 90 minutes every day now work from home and barely move their cars. All these things can affect your security efforts in ways you may not even consider.
Your budget may allow certain funds to be devoted to security. While a crime may cause you to try piecemeal efforts, a systematic approach is best and probably far more effective and affordable than several “patches” of security. Also, avoid “dumb” security measures that may be cost effective but provide very little security. Whether it’s too few guards, CCTV cameras with no one watching, or gates that allow piggybacking, these measures only deter criminals until they’re tested. That could leave you with a community that thought it was protected, only to feel betrayed.
Keep in mind the goal is to prevent crime from happening. To do this, consider adopting a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Strategy (CPEDS). This concept has the following five key points:
Community members will protect territory they feel is their own and have respect for others’ territory. Having a well-designed, lighted, maintained space allows community members to identify intruders much more easily.
Placing physical features or activities in a way that makes it easy to see what’s going on makes criminal activity a bit harder. The increase in work-from-home jobs has led to a decrease in daytime burglaries. It also creates more eyes in your community throughout the day. Make sure these natural surveyors can see something wrong without having to look too hard. Nights can be tricky, but good security lighting can encourage natural surveillance as well.
Encourage dialogue between neighbors; even without a full neighborhood watch you can provide opportunities or activities for them to get to know one another. It is far simpler to ask a neighbor you’ve gotten to know to collect your newspapers and keep an eye on the place over spring break, than it is to put a hold on the newspaper and ask an officer to drive by regularly (though those are both options as well). Creating trust and a community mindset throughout the neighborhood will help everyone protect everyone else.
Well-located entrances and exits, good lighting, and landscaping all serve to direct traffic in certain directions. Gates that stay open too long imply that allowing others into the community is acceptable. Doors propped open or locks that don’t work or aren’t automatic send this same message. If your security leads your homeowners to think it doesn’t matter who comes in, chances are they won’t care either.
Key control is an important aspect of access control, one that the board has a much firmer grasp on. Specific policies regarding the storage and permissions regarding keys are vital. So are penalties for the loss of such keys. Also, as a safety precaution, code all keys to units—not with the unit number but with an unrelated number, so no one who happens to find the key knows easily what they’ve found.
While some things may seem like common sense, a walk around the block may tell you otherwise. That post-Christmas surge of big screen TV boxes out for recycling or the stack of newspapers sitting on a porch are temptations for criminals. Avoiding these behaviors is not common sense. As an association, there is a unique opportunity to educate residents.
Your newsletter or website provides easy access. A monthly tip can be a quick education tool. Advise neighbors on good locking procedures and security systems, inform residents of garbage schedules and why taking out/bringing in cans regularly discourages criminals, and discourage the use of obviously hidden keys, among other things.
Ask your police liaison to help educate your residents. “Dinner with a Cop,” whether it be a community potluck or something more formal, is a great opportunity to educate owners about the issues surrounding your community specifically. It also helps to build trust in the officer and provides a source of authority.
Good security is a combination of several interrelated concepts. It’s educating your homeowners, maintaining the property, keeping systems up to date and more, but all these actions build upon one another. If your front gate fails, but your residents know which cars don’t belong in your neighborhood, then your natural surveillance has done its job. If keys are lost, but no one knows what they open and the costs of rekeying expeditiously are covered, then there’s very little chance for loss. This multiplier effect can be seen across the security landscape and can help make your job as a board member just a bit easier when it comes to keeping your neighborhood safe and secure.
Allied Property Group
Allied Property Group is a full-service property management company providing service to South Florida since 2003. We understand the challenges faced by the boards of directors to maintain low costs, increase property values, and enhance the community experience for their fellow neighbors. Our experienced and talented staff can help you achieve those goals by helping you save time and money. You will find that we genuinely care about your community and its goals. We provide a personal touch to increase positive relationships with our board members and homeowners alike.
For more information on Allied Property Group, visit www.alliedpropertygroup.net.