Gates Are Almost Ready in Steeplechase Terrace

The installation of the gates at both our front and rear entries here in Steeplechase Terrace is underway. While we were researching the value of adding gates to the community, we came across some information you might find valuable.:

Perception of Security

More and more people want to reside in gated residential communities. Because of this, gated residential communities and garden apartments across the country are being built at record rates. In the 1970s there were approximately 2000 gated communities nationwide. In the early 2000s, there were over 50,000 gated properties with more being built every year. That equates to about seven million households or 6% of the national total behind walls or fences. About four million of the total is in communities where access is controlled by gates, entry codes, key cards or security guards(1). Gated communities offer some benefits and some drawbacks depending whether you are a resident or in property management. I will discuss both sides of the issue in this article.

All gated and fenced residential communities have several things in common. Gates and fences provide the perception of security, safety, and privacy. In affluent residential neighborhoods, privacy means exclusivity and therefore increased property values. Adding an attractive automatic entry gate system can easily add $50,000 or more to single family home values within some communities regardless of whether it has any effect on crime.

Gates as an Amenity

Large apartment properties often add gate systems as an amenity to attract new residents. Gated communities are desirable to most prospective residents and to most property managers because they can charge a premium for rent. The main purpose of a gate, on a low-crime property, is not to deter or prevent crime but to provide the perception of security and exclusivity. Let’s face it, everyone wants to feel good about where they live and a gated community is like a private club where access privileges are required. Any real benefits of crime prevention are a plus.

Still, other apartment communities add gate systems as a barrier to keep criminals off the property and away from rent paying residents. In this setting, the intention is to reduce crime and retain residents by erecting a significant barrier to unauthorized foot and vehicle traffic. Gates are often considered as a cheaper alternative to hiring and managing security guards. Gate installation companies promote this in their marketing and stress the added benefit of liability protection. That is not always sound advice. Gates can also be a barrier to emergency services like the police or fire departments. It is extremely important to have a system in place that allows quick access to them. Most communities use a “Knox Box” key system but there are also universal keypad codes, and restricted radio frequency access. Check with your local police and Fire Marshall.

Do Gates Reduce Crime?

This is the most common question that is asked. The answer is always a qualified, yes. Fences and working gates definitely reduce unauthorized vehicle and foot traffic on a property especially late at night and early in the morning. For many properties, traffic reduction alone is enough to reduce much of the parking lot and street crime. Note my emphasis on “working” gates. Swinging gates in a volatile community will have problems being operational 24-hours per day due to abuse and vandalism.

The effectiveness of gates and fencing depends on the nature of the property and the management controls in place. Gates and fencing works best on a stable property with non-criminal, mature residents. If you manage a property that caters to college students it can be a nightmare to maintain an effective gate system. If you intend to install a gate system on a high-crime property that is full of criminal types, drug dealers, and gang members the gated system will be waste of money until you clear the bad element out.

Formidable fencing and gates, by design, restrict access and therefore provide both a physical and psychological barrier for criminals. Good signage is necessary to announce that this is private property and to post your no trespassing policy. Sure, one can tailgate onto a property behind someone else but this requires effort and exposes the criminal to a potential witness. Criminals want to come onto an apartment property anonymously and blend into the community of strangers. Criminals like quick escape routes and don’t want to become trapped behind fences or gates should they be discovered. Many criminals will bypass a gated community for one that is not gated simply because of the restricted access.

Gated communities should not claim to be able to prevent all crimes. Gates and fences is just another tool to help a property manager fight crime. More tools are usually required to do the complete job. Support by the residents and management is required to maintain an effective gate system. Management needs to educate the residents how the properly use the gate system and how to report abuse and damage. Residents need to report or challenge unauthorized persons using the gates and not give out gate codes unnecessarily. Management needs to periodically change the master gate code to screen out former repair vendors, a zillion pizza delivery companies, and former residents.