In recent years, crime incidences, such as snatch thefts and break-ins, have escalated to a level where the general man in the street is genuinely afraid for his safety and well-being. So the market is now demanding for properties within a gated-and-guarded community. FILE PIC

MUCH has been said in the last few years about gated-and-guarded communities. The fear of rising crime rates has ensured this phenomenon will continue to be in everyone’s mind when purchasing a property to live in.

In recent years, crime incidences, such as snatch thefts and break-ins, have escalated to a level where the general man in the street is genuinely afraid for his safety and well-being. So the market is now demanding for properties within a gated-and-guarded community. And even it weren’t for such property, the developer must provide some form of assurance of safety to the occupants.

For older properties which do not have these facilities, residents have taken it upon themselves to organise some form of security within the estate they live in. The most popular and easiest method is to fence up the area, close some entrances and place a boom gate-and-guard house at the main entrance.

For newer developments and condominiums, the gated and guarded feature forms part of the development and has been planned and incorporated into the estate. This, of course, works better than the ad-hoc fencing and guard house. But is all this just a fallacy? Do they work?

I have seen many instances where all you have to do is drive up to the gate and wave at the guard. He then waves back at you as if he knows you and promptly proceeds to open the gate, allowing you easy access to the housing area.

Other times, security is stricter and the guard will actually stop you and enquire where you’re going. You may or may not be required to register yourself at the guard house and perhaps leave behind your driver’s licence or some other form of identification.

A friend of mine lives in an organised gated area in SS2, Petaling Jaya. One Sunday evening, at about 5pm, a car drove up to his house. Three men suddenly climbed over his front wall and broke into his home, brandishing parangs. They proceeded to tie him and his maid up and asked his wife to accompany them upstairs.

They ransacked the house of cash, jewellery, laptops and mobile phones. They then had the audacity to ask my friend for his car keys and promptly drove off in his Honda Civic. At the guard house, the guard waved at them and allowed both cars to leave the premises.

The questions that beg to be answered are these:

•With a born gate and guards at the gate, how did these strangers enter the estate unchecked?

•With guards patrolling the neighbourhood, how is it that no one saw the entire incident unfolding for nearly half an hour?

•How did both cars manage to exit the neighbourhood past the guards?

•Did the guards not notice a stranger at the wheel of the familiar Honda Civic?

So, are gated-and-guarded facilities really secure? Or do they just give the impression that they are? Although these guards are not trained or equipped to ensure zero crime, but could their mere presence contribute to a vast reduction in crimes?

I think anyone planning to organise their “taman” into a guarded enclave should take cognisance of the followings:

1. You get what you pay for. If you are unable to organise a large enough pool of people who contribute to service charges, you will not be able to hire guards of any calibre.

2. Your guards are the be-all and end- all of the service you are trying to provide. If there are no strict systems and processes put in place, then you can be sure that your guards will be there merely as window-dressing.

3. Enforcement is the key. If discipline and adherence to the systems and processes are not strictly enforced, everything will eventually fail.

4. Cooperation of each and everyone in the estate is vital. If a large number of people don’t contribute, the whole thing will eventually fail and collapse.

5. The amount collected from each household must be adequate for the service to be provided with any measure of success. If you are going to be constantly facing cash flow problems, the system will also fail.

6. Volunteers are important. The community must volunteer to man the system and enforce the process. This is vital to the success of any community living. The more the dedication shown by the community itself, the easier it will be to make the whole thing work.

Happy hunting and may the force be with you.

The writer is a real estate practitioner who is passionate about the property industry and tries to manage the labyrinth of the market honestly while consistently maintaining a high standard of ethics in his practice. He welcomes feedback at siva@miea.com.my.

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