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Are Gated Communities a Threat to Public Safety?

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Are Gated Communities a Threat to Public Safety?
April 15, 2020

Are Gated Communities a Threat to Public Safety?

Home security systems remain

the most effective way to protect your home from break-ins

More than 10 million Americans live behind gates designed to wrap their neighborhoods in a blanket of security—entering a code, using a key, or waving to the friendly neighborhood gate attendant to access their community. But are gated communities safer? Or could gates have the opposite effect: serving as a status symbol that attracts thieves convinced the homes have more expensive items to steal?

Built on the promise of a safer neighborhood, the number of gated communities in the U.S. has exploded since the late 1980s, especially in the Sunbelt states. But despite their growing prevalence, crime and community scholars are surprisingly silent on gated community security—and the results of the few studies that exist are mixed.

A 2013 study mentioned in the “Gated Communities and Crime in the U.S.” report published in The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Criminology found that homes in gated communities experienced 33 percent fewer burglaries than non-gated neighborhoods.

But two other national-level studies the report analyzes conclude that gated communities offer no particular protection against crime—and tend to slow police response times. Those theories are supported by a 2012 study utilizing a cross-section of National Crime Victimization Survey data, which found that gated communities do not significantly impact the number of break-ins.

And a fourth study considered in the Oxford report asserts that homes inside gates experience more crime—a theory that’s sometimes supported by news reports of criminals preying on these neighborhoods. For instance, a burglary ring stole items worth more than $100,000 from 10 homes in gated communities in South Florida before police shut it down.

In the news report, Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti asserted that a recent increase in crime in the area didn’t discriminate between gated and non-gated neighborhoods. "It's been happening across the board, as far as the type of residential properties they're breaking into," he said. "In a gated community there is an additional level of security, but by no means does that make you immune from burglary."

Why gated community

security isn’t enough to stop crime

Working gates can reduce unauthorized vehicle and foot traffic on a property, especially late at night and early in the morning. In theory, traffic reduction may decrease parking lot, driveway, and street crime. Gates may also help deter criminals who are afraid of being trapped if they are discovered.

But gates alone aren’t enough to prevent property crimes. Here’s why:

Some thieves target gated communities 

People pay a premium to live in neighborhoods with gates, and the gates make a big statement. They broadcast, “this community has money”—and enterprising thieves may see the development as a lucrative target. Not only is there more likely to be a rewarding haul, but thieves understand that people with more money tend to go out more often and take more vacations, leaving their homes unprotected.

Criminals generally bypass homes with visible home security systems, however. Homes without security systems are 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be targeted by burglars, according to a study sponsored by the Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation (AIREF). But many homeowners or renters who are lulled into a false sense of security don’t install security systems.

Gates aren’t foolproof neighborhood security

Some gates do more for aesthetics than security. Determined thieves can scale walls, traverse berms, or force their way through a hedge line. Some criminals are even brazen enough to stroll right past a guard shack.

Unauthorized cars can get past some unmanned gates by closely following the person before them, slipping inside before it closes. Gates may also fail or break and are then left open until they are fixed. Lax gate attendants may admit cars without checking their credentials. Residents can put their passcodes in the wrong hands, and people hired to work in the neighborhood like construction crews, delivery people, or landscapers can hide bad intentions. It’s even not uncommon for the local pizza parlor to have a gated community’s access code scribbled on a post-it note on the wall!

At the end of the day, gate access is porous. Many situations exist where the outer security intended to secure a community may fail, leaving homes vulnerable to crime.

Criminals can live and work inside gates, too!

Law-abiding citizens may not be the only ones who live or work in a nice neighborhood. Burglars and other criminals may very well call gated communities home—making it easy to learn people’s habits and case the area for the best targets. And, as mentioned, service providers that work within these communities could case homes for others or commit crimes themselves.

Gated communities can create a false sense of security 

Gated communities can foster an illusion of security that causes residents to lower their guard. Even though a majority of convicted burglars say they avoid homes with security systems, only about 17 percent of U.S. households have them. And even when homeowners and renters do install security systems, living in a gated community can make them lax about arming systems—or even locking their doors.

Your actions and those of your neighbors play a critical role in preventing crime in a neighborhood. Keeping a vigilant eye out for suspicious people and activity, establishing relationships with neighbors that enable you to look out for each other, and taking steps to secure your home are key to mitigating crime.

Picture of person climbing over gate at nightPicture of person climbing over gate at night
Determined thieves can bypass gates by scaling walls, traversing berms, or forcing their way through a hedge line.


home security systems enhance neighborhood security

Gates create a physical barrier that helps property managers control access. But there’s no concrete evidence that they actually prevent home break-ins, and more tools are required to achieve real protection against burglaries.

Installing a smart home security system is a simple, affordable, and effective way to deter crime—safeguarding your home and loved ones while adding the conveniences of smart-home living.

Frontpoint Security’s wireless security system is incredibly hard to defeat or evade. Long-lasting batteries in devices combined with a 100% 4G LTE cellular connection and built-in Wi-Fi backup make the system virtually tamper-proof, eliminating wires that can be easily snipped or systems that fail to function during power outages. The Hub that controls the system is also smash-proof, enabling it to alert the 24/7 monitoring center even if thieves shatter it.

Frontpoint’s monitoring service ensures that help will be on the way when it’s needed most, whether people inside a house are facing crime, fire, or even some medical emergencies. Smart systems will also send instant text, email, and/or push notifications to homeowners and renters after an alarm sounds or suspicious activity is detected so that they can react quickly.

Artificial intelligence (AI) engines help Frontpoint systems “learn” behaviors and deliver unexpected activity alerts for users to investigate, such as doors opening at unusual times or children not arriving home on time after school. Cameras powered by video analytics can distinguish important events from routine activity, so you aren't overloaded with false alerts. For instance, the analytics can let you know when someone lingers for too long on your porch but not when the mailman drops by.

System alerts prompt users to review real-time footage from their home security cameras. If an activity is suspicious, they can call for help. If the system is armed and an intrusion sensor is breached—setting off the audible alarm—homeowners can quickly check the camera feed to confirm the presence of a threat. This vital information can be provided to the police and the system’s professional monitoring service. And the monitoring service will call the police if the homeowner or renter can’t be reached after two quick phone calls.

Picture of the Frontpoint Premium Indoor CameraPicture of the Frontpoint Premium Indoor Camera
Frontpoint’s Premium Indoor Camera has digital pan and tilt capability, a wide-angle lens for a full 180° view, and enhanced zoom capabilities.

Unlike intrusion detection features, environmental sensors such as Smoke and Heat or Carbon Monoxide Sensors don’t need to be “armed” to send alerts. They always alert the monitoring service and send mobile notifications as soon as smoke, high temperatures, a suspicious rise in heat, or unsafe levels of carbon monoxide are detected. Alerts even specify the part of the house where a threat is sensed, allowing people to check their security cameras to confirm certain emergencies.

Every second that passes during a fire, flood, gas build-up, or home break-in counts. If you are on vacation or simply away from your smartphone when an alert comes in, Frontpoint’s smart security system and the watchful eye of the monitoring service stand ready to protect your home.

Beyond home security:

Frontpoint systems enable smart living

Smart security systems also support a variety of smart home technology. With a Frontpoint system, people can access their homes from anywhere via an app available for any smartphone or mobile device, as well as through the online Customer Portal. This access makes arming or disarming the system as simple as tapping a button. You can see and speak to people in the house through cameras with two-way audio capabilities, and even remotely answer the door.

Smart Door Locks let you unlock and lock the door from anywhere, letting workers or other visitors in and out of the house without having to give out entry codes or even leave your desk at work. These locks also provide awareness of who is coming and going when you aren’t home through unique entry codes for family members and trusted guests.

Smart security systems can control a range of other smart home features, as well. Left the lights on downstairs when you went to work? Simply pull out your smartphone and turn them off.

On vacation and receive warning of an unexpected cold front back home? If you’ve installed a smart thermostat, you can adjust it remotely to keep your home’s pipes from freezing.

The app also enables users to create scenes that operate multiple devices with a single command. These can be controlled through the app or smart speakers. This convenience makes locking the doors, turning off the lights, and arming perimeter sensors as simple as tapping a screen or saying, “Alexa (or ‘Hey Siri’), tell Frontpoint good night.”

Frontpoint’s Geo-Services feature ups the convenience factor even further, instructing your home to perform certain actions based on your location automatically. By allowing the system to use your smartphone's location, "rules" that you apply to specific places automatically take effect any time your phone crosses a "geofence"—an invisible ring around the property. For instance, you can create a geofence at your office that commands your home’s smart thermostat to automatically adjust to a comfortable temperature and the lights to turn on when you leave for the day.

Wireless home security

systems can avoid HOA objections

Some gated communities are governed by strict homeowners’ associations (HOAs). While HOAs typically can’t influence changes made inside a house, installing a home security system might be considered an architectural alteration of a home’s exterior and require written approval.

In condominiums and apartment buildings, the situation can get even tricker. Installations that involve common walls, floors, ceilings, or other common property may require HOA approval. And even if the HOA doesn’t object, renters who want to install certain security systems may face resistance from landlords concerned that running wires will cause damage.

Frontpoint’s DIY (do-it-yourself) wireless security systems sidestep the objections raised by HOAs and landlords. Outdoor Cameras are small, unobtrusive, and aesthetically pleasing. Since homeowners and renters install them on their own, they can carefully position them so they won’t intrude upon a neighbor’s privacy.

Frontpoint wireless systems offer little chance of damaging a property’s interior because no carpentry, wiring, or significant alterations are required. The installation of most components is as simple as setting a device on a shelf or attaching it to a wall with a double-sided adhesive. Systems can be unpacked and set up in a matter of minutes.

The simple installation offers another advantage: with no wires or phone lines, Frontpoint’s systems are simple to remove and take with you if you move. You can also rearrange, add, or remove components easily. 

Picture of the Frontpoint Product LinePicture of the Frontpoint Product Line

Combine smart home security systems with gated

community security 

Gates can serve as the first line of defense against crime. But they are by no means foolproof, and gated communities may lull residents into complacency—making the homes inside targets for burglars. Smart home security systems serve as a true deterrent against crime.

To learn more about how specific system components work, check out these blogs:

Frontpoint keeps families safer and more connected in their everyday lives. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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