Gated Communities-Are Residents Really Safer Behind a Security Fence?

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Gated Communities-Are Residents Really Safer Behind a Security Fence?

Gated communities have increased in numbers in recent decades, with the idea that security gates and fences offer a higher level of safety. But are residents really safer behind a security fence? 

Answering this question requires a review of the data on gated communities as well as the pros and cons of living among such a community from the perspective of its residents. 

Gated Communities in the U.S.

Many of today’s gated communities are businesses that are under private ownership and the area within the gated property is considered private space. Because of this, it is unknown exactly how many gated communities exist in the United States. 

There is, however, data collected through the American Housing Survey for the United States (AHSUS) that includes information on “secured communities,” which is defined as communities that prohibit “access by nonresidents…usually by physical boundaries, such as gates, walls, and fences, or through private security.” 

According to the 2009 AHSUS (the last report to provide separate data on secured communities), approximately 11% of residential neighborhoods are secured or gated, with an estimated 57% having a secured entry system. Approximately 50% of gated communities consist of rental properties, whereas the other half are owner-occupied. 

Approximately 80% of gated or secured communities are located in the Western and Southern United States. The Northeast region has approximately 13%, and only 8% are located in the Midwest. Population distribution and climate are the main reasons the quantity of gated communities differ between the regions. Warmer areas tend to have more secured communities than snowy regions.

Safety and Security in Gated Communities

Though some experts claim that gated communities are safer, there are a number of scholarly articles that argue against such claims. Because the crime data collected across the United States is not separated between gated communities and ungated neighborhoods, there is no hard evidence that proves gated communities are safer. 

According to residential security expert, Jordan Frankel, gated communities offer residents a physical barrier that can also serve as a psychological deterrent for burglars and other home intruders. These factors can equate into decreased crime. However, residents must also consider the integrity of the other people that live within the community. Just because someone lives inside a gated community does not automatically mean everyone is a law-abiding citizen. Gated communities can also house criminals. Family and friends of neighboring residents may also be of lesser caliber. 

Gated communities often cite their security gates and fences as an amenity in their marketing materials. Though the law prohibits such communities from making outright claims of higher security and safety, the term “gated community” has a psychological effect on the public that suggests safety and security. As most law enforcement and other security experts will tell you, however, the safety and security of a property depends on a variety of factors, one of which is whether the neighbors keep a look out for one another. 

One of the problems Jordan Frankel has witnessed among residents in gated communities is the false sense of security they develop. Many residents place their trust in the gates and fences surrounding their neighborhood to keep them safe. Because of this residents tend to let their guard down and fail to keep a look out for suspicious people and activity. They also fail to adequately secure their property against burglars and other home intruders. This is a mistake because it makes the homes of these residents easy targets.

Pros and Cons of Gated Communities

Though living in a gated community does not guarantee residents a crime-free neighborhood, there are a number of benefits to them. Some of these benefits include: 

  • Less solicitors. A neighborhood protected by a security gate makes it very difficult for solicitors to enter the community, thereby significantly decreasing the number of strangers knocking at your door.
  • Less traffic. The streets within gated communities are restricted to the residents who live inside the gates. This means you don’t have to worry about others using the streets as shortcuts. Less traffic means less noise. It can also offer a safer environment for children who live within the community.
  • Strict rules and codes of conduct. Gated communities often require their residents to agree to adhere to various rules and codes of conduct. This can be of benefit because such rules typically require residents to maintain their homes and yards. This helps ensure the value and appearance of the community as a whole is maintained. 

Just as there are benefits to living in a gated community, there are some downsides as well. Some of the most common complaints among residents of such communities include:

  • Inconvenience. Gated communities that have electronic gates that require a key card, remote control, or security code to open can be inconvenient at times to residents when things don’t work properly. Residents who work or who drive children to and from school around the same time of day may encounter delays due to a line of cars. People who visit may also have trouble entering the property. This is especially true if they have to be buzzed in by a resident. Parking can also be a problem within gated communities for visitors.
  • High prices. Residential units within gated communities tend to cost more compared to those in unsecured neighborhoods. This is often due to the additional fees required to maintain the gates, fencing, streets, and other common areas of the community. Some may also have paid security guards that patrol the area.
  • Strict rules and codes of conduct. Though many residents like the idea of living in a gated community that requires its residents to maintain their property and be considerate of their neighbors, those same rules can sometimes limit residents when it comes to how they live. For example, if you love animals, you may be limited to the number or types of pets you can have. Certain rules may also prevent you from conducting certain businesses from your home.

If you are considering moving into a gated community, it’s important to consider the various advantages and disadvantages beforehand. Keep in mind that even the safest of communities experiences its share of burglaries and other crimes. No matter what where you live, it is important to always be vigilant and to put in place a variety of home security measures to keep the bad guys out.