Are Gated Communities Safer?
More than 10 percent of all residential communities within the United States are gated. Gated communities have a fence around the entire perimeter, and access points are controlled through either a physical security presence or a computerized system. Closed neighborhoods are an alluring option for many families because of a perception that they are inherently safer. The truth about gated communities may not be so simple, however, and home buyers should carefully consider all of the pros and cons before deciding if such a community is right for them.
Fenced communities do effectively minimize crimes of opportunity, which are crimes that are committed without premeditation and because criminals discover lucrative illegal activities and act on those impulses. A majority of minor burglaries are crimes of opportunity, and statistics show that a person living in a gated community is less likely to be the victim of a break-in while at work, have a bicycle stolen off the front lawn, have landscaping tools lifted out of the garage and so forth.
Increase in Other Crimes
Nevertheless, gated communities do not tend to experience less crime overall. In other words, while being fenced off does help prevent and deter some crimes, it makes other crimes more prevalent. Top among these crimes are partner violence, bullying and violent assault. It is also worth noting that among burglaries where the home was targeted and the crime was performed by professional criminals — non-opportunistic — fences and access control had little to no statistical effect.
False Sense of Security
Perhaps one of the most alarming aspects of the statistics involving gated communities is the false sense of security that many of the residents experience. The prevalence of residential security systems within these communities is well below the national average, and that may in part explain why targeted burglaries are just as or even more likely than in a non-gated residential area.
That mindset that would lead a homeowner to forgo a professional security system can cause other problems as well, such as a lack of community involvement. Statistically, neighborhood watch programs, which are proven effective, are much less prevalent within gated communities. Another disadvantage is reduced traffic, and while many parents see that as a positive in terms of their children playing in the yard, traffic is a deterrent on crime and often leads to a greater police presence.
An intriguing aspect of the statistics involving gated communities is the concept of crime displacement. Although fencing may reduce crimes of opportunity in the immediate area, there is usually no statistical effect in the greater community. This statistic coupled with data about community involvement is a primary reason why some argue that these communities are actually detrimental overall.
Whether a gated community is a right fit depends on the family. These communities present both advantages and disadvantages. One thing that is made clear by the statistics is that while homeowners can enjoy the benefits of a gated community, they should not rely on them. Community involvement and a professional residential security system are still essential.