What is a Gated Community?
Gated communities are growing more and more popular by the year, according to the IFPO. Residents of gated communities feel safer inside a walled fortress protected by manned or unmanned gates with only a few points of entry. There are a few different kinds of gated communities, each with varying degrees of security: leisure communities offer residents various leisure activities such as horseback riding and golf courses inside the community itself. Many retirement communities are organized as such. Another type is an elite community, which is built around exclusion and status. Only the rich and famous live in these communities. Security for elite communities is extremely tight, and crime rates are often far lower than the outside community. A third type of gated community is the security zone community. These gated communities are for people seeking more security in their neighborhood than a non-gated community. Despite their name, security zone communities are often the least secure of the three.
Most gated communities in the United States are security zone communities. Many studies show that there is virtually no difference in crime rate between gated and non-gated communities. For example, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a study compared the crime rates of several gated communities with the crime rate of the city as a whole and found no difference (Blackley and Snyder). The study also interviewed police patrol officers and found that most of them dislike gated communities because they felt they slowed police and emergency vehicle response time. While walls and security towers provide the illusion of security (and actual results for a year or so) they really have no effect on the long term security of the neighborhood.
So Why Aren't Gated Communities More Safe?
One of the reasons gated communities do not provide much more actual security is that the security guards of these neighborhoods are people who do not live in the community, and are often paid as low as nine dollars per hour. They cannot be expected to put their lives on the line to protect a community they do not live in, for barely livable wages. Security guards are not police. They have some training but not to the level of a patrol officer. They also have a permanent disadvantage, in their limited jurisdiction of a small area. They cannot be proactive in making a community safer.
Another reason gated communities are no safer than non gated communities is that emergency vehicles are impeded by them. As mentioned above, many law enforcement individuals complain of the difficulty involved when entering a gated community. Rescue workers often find themselves going through fifty or more entry devices for unmanned gates (Diamond. As quoted by IFPO). Ambulances and fire trucks are very difficult to maneuver through narrow gates. The reason robberies and burglaries only decrease in gated communities for a short time is that the various entry codes are given out to certain individuals who need regular access to the communities, but do not live there themselves, such as pizza delivery people, maids, dog walkers, etc. This information is leaked to others, and eventually burglars gain entry to the community.
The Inconvenient Truth
People feel much safer in gated communities, and they are becoming more popular by the year (Benjamin), but every statistic available paints a different picture. While walls and gates will initially keep most burglars out of a neighborhood, eventually the houses and individuals will be subject to the same crime rate as whatever the surrounding area is. Higher security in gated communities is a myth that more Americans buy into every year.