Estate living has become an increasingly popular choice for South African families and home owners, particularly because it comes with the promise of better safety and security. Most popular estates are able to offer residents a blend of both privacy and space, as well as the added comfort of close neighbourly security.It is therefore ironic that many estates are not as secure as they appear to be. Budget constraints often result in shortcuts being taken on some of the most integral security measures of estates, lulling estate residents into a false sense of security and causing them to neglect taking the precautions that they should.
The Perimeter Fence
The perimeter fence is probably the most important aspect of estate security, not only because of the function it needs to perform, but because its standard is regarded as indicative of the overall estate security, and sends this message to would-be intruders. A large percentage of break-ins in housing estates can be directly attributable to inadequate fencing.Often a case of profit over performance, some developers have been known to cut costs when it comes to the fence line. These days, most fencing is no match for the ingenuity and skills of intruders, and unless it is state-of-the-art, it can be penetrated. But the better the standard of the fence, the lower the risk of intrusion.
A good perimeter fence is a physical barrier, a psychological barrier and an early warning system, so it is essential that the fence is not only formidable, but that it has an intruder detection capabilities. The detail to which intrusions are detected, based on the size of the detection zones, is a major consideration. It costs more to have smaller zones but they do give more accurate intrusion locations, and when coupled with a good quality, monitored CCTV system, provides accurate data on which security personnel can act. Many modern-day CCTV systems also incorporate thermal detection, which is highly recommended for better quality – and more efficient – estate security.
Added Security Measures
In addition to quality perimeter fencing and detection, access control, which includes staff, visitor and contractor control, needs to be more stringent and technologically capable. Access control should, if possible, consist of biometrics which makes it impossible for access to be transferred, as is the case with access cards. Cards can be borrowed, or lost – potentially ending up in the wrong hands. There also needs to be proper visitor management to determine how long visitors are on site for, and should not simply consist of vehicle details written in books or on sheets of paper, because if paper registers are to be believed, Mickey Mouse is a regular visitor to many estates. Once these technologically advanced steps are taken to improve the quality of estate security, the next is to ensure that there is suitably trained and capable manpower to operate it. It is no longer good enough to have estate security monitored by traditional night watchmen. Such guards need to be upskilled to not only use the technology, but also to effectively react to what the technology reveals to them.
Perimeter fencing and access control is designed to stop people with nefarious intentions on the outside from getting in, but cannot stop those already inside. An established trend is for properties within estates to be rented by criminals and syndicates and then used as a base from which to commit crime in the estate. There are often stringent methods of vetting potential home owners, but not enough control over who those owners rent their properties out to. Estate managers do need to establish firmer control, or at least vetting, of even rental tenants.
From a security perspective the design and positioning of the gatehouse needs careful consideration. Some architects will design an estate in such a way that the gatehouse is outside the estate, but best practice is for the gatehouse to be secured within the estate as it needs to be protected by the same external controls and perimeter fencing that the rest of the estate is. If it is situated outside the estate, it is easier for criminals to overpower the gatehouse security guard and gain unrestricted access to the estate.
Just as with residential security, it is very important for estate security to be layered. We like to see four concentric rings/layers at estates: * The fence line with its detection technology and cameras * Perimeter fence patrol guards * Patrol guards within the estate * The individual residents’ house alarms
Individual Residents’ Responsibilities
A common mistake made by those who live within estates is believing they are completely protected from crime. They are lulled into a false sense of security, often overlooking simple security measures such as locking doors and keeping windows closed. Even though they live in estates, residents need to still be responsible for their own security. Estates are not immune to crime, and break-ins and robberies do occur.Although living in a secure environment, estate residents are still living within a society that has a high level of crime, and as such they need to adapt their lifestyles to this. They still need to exercise a degree of control over their own security. Not all estate crime is the work of hardened criminals. A large percentage of break-ins within estates are at the hands of teenagers and young adults who live on the estate. Resident delinquent youths may not have criminal minds, but are often inclined towards criminal acts, motivated by alcohol or peer pressure. They may be tempted to take risks when they see open windows, for example, and then use such opportunities to carry out minor crimes such as petty theft.Estate residents are therefore encouraged to have their own alarm systems installed in their homes. Although these usually have to be silent alarms and are often linked to the estate’s on-site security as opposed to external companies, they are a necessity. Such systems should also include panic buttons.
Strong Security Partnerships
It is integral that good working relationships between estate managers or management committees and their security service providers are established. In addition to routine operational meetings, there should be regular meetings to review how new technological innovations, manpower modifications other industry advancements could benefit the estate and its residents. For optimal efficiency it is also crucial that the various security interventions (physical, manned and electronic) be integrated into one fully inclusive service.
In the residential estate environment the question that begs asking is not “what is the cost of good security”, but rather, “what is the cost of poor security.” Ultimately, estates need to offer their residents more than just a perceived level of security, but one which can effectively deter and/or respond to a real criminal threat. Although good security comes at cost, it is a non-negotiable in keeping residents safe and preserving brand reputation – which ultimately translates into increased property values and a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive residential estate market.