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Take a Bite Out of HOA Crime

Homeowners associations are often called on to provide security in some form or another. Some provide controlled entry gates or access, security guards, video cameras and other high-tech gadgetry.

Others build fences and moats (you heard right — with volunteer alligators — in Florida). All of this is costly, but does it really do the trick?

Security is mostly perception subject to personal experience and bias. For example, while a resident may feel more secure because of a new video surveillance system, an intruder may laugh because the system has major gaps. Effective security aligns both resident and criminal understanding. That means that both perceive there is a security barrier.

In addressing security issues, HOAs should be careful not to preempt local law enforcement or appear as if they are. This is especially true in the case of breaking and entering or physical altercations.

Doing so may expose the HOA to additional liability. A number of significant court cases have found HOAs responsible for assaults, rapes and other violent crimes because they failed to provide promised security. In most of those cases, the HOA had boasted about its security. Never make such boasts. They are great lawsuit fodder for attorneys.

On the other hand, HOAs should be conscious of security issues and make the community reasonably safe and secure. There are many relatively inexpensive steps an HOA and its residents can take.

Unfortunately, residents are often the worst gap in security. They leave gates open, hand out keys and codes, and rarely question strangers even if they see them breaking into someone’s car.

To address this weak link, a neighborhood watch committee is helpful to remind individuals personally or put out periodic reminders about specific security issues. The committee’s job is to keep residents aware, not scared. Information distribution is particularly effective following a crime. Meetings with guest speakers like police, detectives and security companies also work. Most residents know what they should do, but timely reminders keep them focused on the issue.

While cameras and guards seem like a good idea, bad guys rarely parade in plain view, the equipment is expensive and requires human monitoring. It’s better to have residents make repeated calls to local police requesting more frequent patrols. Police do count the calls in determining where they should place patrols. An effective security measure is posting highly visible “24 HOUR SURVEILLANCE” signs. If the bad guys can read, a fair number of them are deterred. Fake video cameras in visible locations also work. The fact that there is neither 24 hour surveillance nor real cameras doesn’t inform the criminal of that. If you can deter three out of five criminals, you’ve just reduced crime by 60 percent. Make sure to inform the residents about the true nature of the signs and cameras.

While an HOA can pay for expensive guard services, the guards can’t be everywhere at once. You can buy security cameras and recorders, but who’s going to monitor the equipment? And even if you catch someone on camera, the chances are slim you’ll be able to identify them.

Instead, make sure that exterior lighting is well-placed and working. Gates and locks should be industrial grade. Landscaping should be trimmed to reduce cover and to allow light to disperse. Install fence climbing deterrents on likely points of entry. Keep residents informed of neighborhood crimes as they happen. They are reminders to be vigilant.

Take a big bite of crime before it takes a bite out of you.

Written by Ashley Sutphin for Copyright © 2020 Realty Times All Rights Reserved.