When last did you inspect your estate's security?

November 2009

Are estates and complexes practicing what they preach, or for want of a better phrase, delivering the security mechanisms for which they are so sought after?

Homeowners, particularly those buying into estates or complexes, tend to leave their security concerns to the home owners association and the security company taking care of their community. They justify this attitude by arguing that why, since they are paying a premium to be in the estate, should they have to worry about security. In fact, the very reason they bought into the estate is to have total peace of mind that their security is in the hands of the bigger picture, that is, the governing bodies of the estate.
Nevertheless, the point is, we live in South Africa, and nobody can afford to be complacent or ill informed, no matter where they live. Gone are the days where estate homeowners can put all their trust in the security set up that they buy into.
We asked Marcel Pienaar, head of estate security at ADT, to tell us a little more about the inside story behind estate security and what homeowners ought to know.
“Homeowners buying into gated communities must first assess the risk level of their suburb. This plays a big role in determining the level of security required in the estate/complex,” says Pienaar. “Secondly the homeowner must understand that there are high-end estates and low-end estates and again, these factors determine the financial spend of security measures within the estate.”
The role of the developer
It is a known fact that not all developers have homeowners’ best interests at heart. “The problem we have found with many of the older up-market estates is that their security systems are not sound due to poor planning and budgeting at development stage,” explains Pienaar. “And the developer in many of these instances is largely to blame.
“Unfortunately it has been proven time and again that many developers have treated security detail as a last priority. Scant budget would be set aside, and often no investment in employing the skills of professional security advisers to come in and assess the requirements of the estate was catered for. With little or no knowledge of security systems, they often settled for cheap-and-nasty systems instead of sound ones.”
Pienaar says that homeowners have frequently been living in sub-standard complexes with no proof that their systems are sound. “You would be surprised how many developers say they have installed a full system, yet they can offer no compliance certificate or proof that the system is indeed suited to the complex.”
What generally happens in the older estates, and even in the newer ones, is that the homeowner’s association is forced by necessity, to call in a security consultant and re-look the whole security project. And very often they are compelled to re-install the entire security solution.
Fortunately, Pienaar says the modern estates are learning the lesson of their predecessors and are now quite vigilant in employing independent security advisors right from inception. “It is all about partnerships. The security advisor, the developer and the homeowner’s association have to work together from the beginning.”
Perimeter advice
Since perimeter security is the first line of protection in an estate/complex, a homeowner must query this essential first defence. The high-end estates will generally have bigger cameras protecting them but any estate/complex perimeter should always be observed with CCTV cameras. The guards patrolling inside the estate cannot see the criminal in the street and so the criminal can enter without the guard even noticing.
“Perimeters are not given adequate attention,” says Pienaar. “With perimeters extending as much as 4 km, fences should be multizoned, but often the suppliers of electric fences provide sub-standard fences. There are a lot of sharks out there.”
CCTV advice
CCTV security should be in place and video footage monitored by an offsite armed response company. Pienaar says offsite monitoring is much more secure utilising trained personnel. Fortunately, he says most estates are going this route, unless they are the likes of the larger up-market estates such as Dainfern or Serengeti, for example, who have a complete control room on the estate.
Access control advice
Pienaar reminds us that security is a perception that is created. He believes that if security is not good at the access points, a thief will see the establishment as an easy target. “There must be a system of zero tolerance at the entrance,” he says. “This will give a strong message to any criminal that security is water-tight in the estate.”
The risks most common to entrance points in estates include: holding up the guards at the main entrance, tailgating of vehicles then shooting if apprehended, or holding up residents or visitors stopping at the entrance to the estate.
Aside from keeping the resident well informed, Pienaar believes the best solution to these access problems at present is not based on high-tech security solutions. It would be more beneficial to simply tint the windows of the guard room, so that visitors, residents or potential criminals stopping at the access point cannot see the guards or what they are doing. This will unnerve the criminal and empower the guard to act more effectively.
Securing your own home in an estate
Residents are just too complacent when it comes to securing their own homes in estates. Pienaar says most criminal activity taking place in homes is due to information being given out. The other factor is due to the criminal actually residing in the estate. Crime in this instance is usually related to drugs. Some companies actually vet their rental clients and estate homeowners owe it to their estate to take this precaution.
Finally, Pienaar believes that estates and complexes must invest in a sound management body. “The interaction between the homeowners, the guards, the security company and the overall management team is a partnership,” he concludes.
What do I ask?
Pienaar advises homeowners to ask the following questions when buying or building in an estate or complex:
Has anyone done a security survey for the estate?

If so, can I look at the results?

What security measures, judging from the survey, have been put in place?

Ask your community police forum what crime has taken place and when.

Check if the intrusions were over the perimeter wall or through the gate.

What does your perimeter security entail?

Who guards the estate and where is the control room?


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