One of the most important aspects of a managed community is its security. Homeowners obviously want to feel safe. But having a great security system isn’t just needed for homeowners’ peace of mind. Security is part of the fiduciary duty of the HOA board of directors. That’s right — a lack of security can be a liability issue for members of the board. If a problem is reported – or even just foreseeable– and the board doesn’t act, the board members can be held liable.
And the holidays can be an excellent time to assess through your security plan. Because while the holidays bring fun, friends, and family, but they can also bring a surge of crime in your community. The increase of unmonitored packages and the cover of an influx of strangers can be quite appealing to criminals.
The security system can be a bit complex and potentially expensive. We’ll go over some of the critical elements and how the holiday season ties in.
Security From The Start
In many communities, security plans have come together as patchwork reactions to specific incidents. For instance, a burglary occurs, so the HOA puts a camera in facing that specific place. The other incidents occur, and more piecemeal solutions are quickly slapped into place. Before you know it, you can have an ineffective, expensive mess of a security system. Every security measure has it’s positives and negatives, so what can seem like an “obvious” solution when reacting to a problem, could make your community worse-off.
So it’s much better to start with a rational assessment of the community. Usually, this is something board members can do. Local law enforcement can help you walk the property and figure out where the security risks lie and what are the best solutions. Talk to at least two homeowners about their security concerns and any risks they have observed. However, if your community has seen repeated crime, you may need to get a professional security assessment. It will cost money but will give you a specific plan by a company that can implement it.
Another suggestion experts have when creating a security plan is to evaluate whether a human element, technology, or both is best for your community. Both technology and a security guard have their pros and cons, and each is best for specific situations. Think through the community needs and don’t just post a guard when that doesn’t solve the real problem. Or have cameras but no one to watch them. Finally, experts strongly warn against using a “dummy camera.” Some communities think they have found a great economical solution by just putting up a camera that isn’t recording anything. Not only does this fail to deter criminals, but it is a liability issue for the board.
One factor to take into consideration is the trade-off between livability and security. With each added measure, community members may lose a little freedom. And while you are trying to ensure their safety, if it becomes too difficult for people to go about their daily lives, they are likely to get frustrated. Plus, people will start finding ways to go around security measures that get too much in their way all the time. Too tight of security will result in aggravated residents who ignore and defeat the purpose of the security measures.
Let There Be Light
One of the best ways to keep criminals away is light. Yep, just making sure the neighborhood is strategically well-lit can significantly reduce your risk of crime. The board should make sure there is adequate lighting for the parking lots and streets. And to make sure they cover areas where there are cameras. If it is too dark to see the camera, it’s not helping you very much! The cheaper the camera, the more light it needs. Experts say LED lights work the best with cameras.
‘‘Tis the Season to Tighten Security
It may be tempting to report your mother-in-law for repeated drop-ins during the holidays, that isn’t the type of security risk we’re talking about. Unfortunately, with many more packages belong left out, and an increase in strangers in the neighborhood, real criminal activity increases during the holiday season.
While the board should never take responsibility for packages or deliveries, they can offer some suggestions to homeowners for this time of year:
- Don’t leave packages unattended. Have packages left with a neighbor or redelivered when the homeowner. Today you can often track packages through text from FedEx or UPS so you can make last-minute adjustments.
- Arm the alarm system. Many times homeowners install a security system, but after a few false alarms, stop using it. It has to be armed to be useful, so if the fear of an accidental alert is keeping you from using it, work with the company to find the best solution. There are usually settings so you can move around your home without setting anything off.
- Clean your system. Experts say most homeowners don’t clean the areas directly used by the security system enough, and that can interfere with its effectiveness.
- Finally, the board should make sure homeowners have the right contact numbers for local police, and know where to report problems. Sending this information out before and during the holiday season can be helpful.
The holidays are also an excellent time for some community events. Whether it is a Halloween costume contest or holiday potluck, this time of year provides excellent opportunities for social events. And having a well-knit community is an excellent bolster to security. Neighbors are more likely to look out for each other, know when someone is out of town, and to report suspicious incidents if they know each other.