Friday, March 06, 2009

Do gates really keep out crime?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Director Debra Campbell tells me city planners and the city-county police department will study crime rates in and around gated communities to see if the gates really do reduce crime. (So, will they also be looking at crimes such as tax fraud, insider trading or Ponzi scheming? If you've lost your retirement savings, you might consider those white-collar offenses worse than just simple auto break-ins.)

Campbell said at a recent City Council meeting that the city doesn't currently have a policy about gated developments, although its street connectivity policies would discourage them. Planners generally think gated subdivisions work against such things as a sense of community, social capital and mixed-income neighborhoods, in addition to bollixing up general traffic flow.

It's a welcome attempt. Gated developments derive much of their popularity from the general belief that they're safer. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. I know we have often vacationed at a gated beach community, in which there are gated developments inside the gated development. So, um, if you need those extra gates, does that mean the first set of gates doesn't work? Who, exactly, are you trying to keep out? If it's that journalistic riffraff, well, the gates aren't working.


Anonymous said...

Rental property and beach gated communities are not a very good gauge on safety.

I have relatives at a gated community in Florida. The gates are "manned" by off-duty sworn law enforcement officers. YOU DO NOT get thru these gates without being a resident. Contractors and delivery personnel are monitored by GPS. You give the officers your itinerary and any variance from your route will be investigated.

While this does not guarantee saftey it certainly does reduce the chances. Any gated community is only as good as the people working the gate. If the gate is automated you might as well not have a gate.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of a Ponzi scheme. I believe the biggest one of them all is social security.

Anonymous said...

I hope that they control for things like average income of the neighborhood. One would expect all neighborhoods in, say, Davidson to have lower crime rates than neighborhoods in a lower-income part of town. You would want to compare a gated community in Davidson to a nongated community in Davidson, and compare a gated community in the lower-income area to a nongated community in that area to see if, all else equal, having a gate matters.

Anonymous said...

“People sometimes ask if we are scared of the inner city. We say we are more scared of the suburbs. Jesus warns that we can fear those things which can harm our bodies or those things which can destroy our souls, but we should be far more fearful of the latter. Those are the subtle demons of suburbia. As Shane’s mother says, “Perhaps there is no more dangerous place for a Christian to be than in safety and comfort, detached from the suffering of others.” We’re scared of apathy and complacency, of detaching ourselves of others. It’s hard to see until our 20/20 hindsight hits us, but every time we lock someone out, we lock ourselves in. Just as we are building walls to keep people out of our comfortable, insulated existence, we are trapping ourselves in a hell of isolation, loneliness, and fear. We have “gated communities” where rich folk live. We put up picket fences around our suburban homes. We place barbed wire and razor wire around our buildings and churches. We put bars on our windows in the ghettos of fear. We build up walls to keep immigrants from entering our country. We guard out borders with those walls – Berlin, Jerusalem, Jericho. And the more walls and gates and fences we have, the closer we are to hell. We, like the rich man, find ourselves locked into our gated homes and far from the tears of Lazarus outside, far from the tears of God." - Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, "Jesus for President"

Anonymous said...

9:00PM Anon

You need some serious help!

Anonymous said...

02:52:00PM Anon:

You need glasses!

Anonymous said...

Mary, is there ANY aspect of MY LIFE that you DON'T want government to control?

P.S.: I don't live in a gated community.

rick b said...

Just do a Google or Yahoo search...try "gated community crime" or some variation...and get the truth about these enclaves of social dysfunction.

A 1998 study by Blakeley & Snyder found that "Police in all the areas where the authors conducted focus groups reported at best marginal differences in crime between gated and ungated developments. Most found no difference; crime rates varied by area but not between gated and ungated
neighborhoods in the same area. A few even believed they hampered police efforts, because gates slowed response time, walls blocked sight lines, and residents gained a false sense of security, leading them to leave garage doors open and doors and windows unlocked."

They did make one interesting observation, though: "Prestige communities are one of the fastest-growing forms of development in the nation.
They feed on aspirations for exclusion and the desire to differentiate. The services of gate guards and security patrols add to the prestige of exclusivity; residents value the simple presence of a security force more than any service it might actually provide. The newer prestige communities tend toward ostentatious entrances and showy facades."

A Virginia Tech study of the demographics and other statistical characteristics of gated communities based on data from the 2000 census found, with regard to crime, "While renters reported that they perceived higher levels of crime where they lived compared to homeowners, there was virtually no difference reported between gated and non-gated homeowners in this regard."

Yes, gated communities are nothing more than a cheap status symbol, a message to the great unwashed that "we are better than you..." If a neighborhood is interested in real security and real crime prevention, a properly conducted "Neighborhood Watch" program is many times more effective than gates or any other such trappings of elitism.

If it's just the elitism you're seeking, though...the sense of "I've arrived, and I'm going to devote the rest of my life to finding symols of that 'arrival" to display for all the world to see", then those gates are probably just the ticket for you.

Just don't let yourself fall into any sense of false security behind those elaborate gates and entry monuments.

Rick said...

"If it's just the elitism you're seeking, though...the sense of "I've arrived, and I'm going to devote the rest of my life to finding symols of that 'arrival" to display for all the world to see", then those gates are probably just the ticket for you."

...and the point of this study is to take that option away from someone who is so inclined...

Planners generally think gated subdivisions work against such things as a sense of community, social capital and mixed-income neighborhoods, in addition to bollixing up general traffic flow."

I'm just waiting for Mary to start using that silly homegrown movie Crossroads Charlotte (that's an hour of my life I'll never get back) to justify eliminating these types of developments. It's just a little too "Fortress Charlotte" for her.

rick b said...

"...and the point of this study is to take that option away from someone who is so inclined..."

And that would be a good thing indeed for the city of Charlotte, especially if it made "them" look elsewhere to live and work...because people who are "so inclined" do not a fine community make.

Nor do their gated enclaves...which could be considered, perhaps, the toxic excrement of such people.

Anonymous said...

Are gated communities safer? I suppose our leaders think so, as the government office buildings are all gated, with metal detectors, x-ray machines and cops. Possibly this safety should be allowed only for government persons, not private persons.

Anonymous said...

"Planners generally think gated subdivisions work against such things as a sense of community, social capital and mixed-income neighborhoods, in addition to bollixing up general traffic flow."

Don't Planners work in offices behind gates with metal detectors, x-ray machines, and armed guards?

Rick said...

Rick B, do you have the same high opinion of the Dilworth-Myers Park crowd that uses historical designations to achieve the same goals?

The purpose of those designations is nothing but an attempt to keep out people unlike them and to keep the neighborhood exclusive. They fight every rezoning in their area which isn't what they want.

Take a walk around Freedom Park one Saturday morning. The lack of diversity is rather stunning.

There may not be any gates, but the end result is about the same.

But they've got good connecting streets, so that makes it ok - right?

rick b said...

Actually, Rick, the historic designations in Myers Park and Dilworth represent just the opposite of the gated-subdivision problem, and are seeking opposite goals.

You talk about opposition to rezonings, which is one aspect; not wanting, say, another "Charlotte's Best" tacky strip shopping center in one's neighborhood is ample justification for opposing a rezoning.

But what the historic designations are attempting to prevent - and you know this - is the tearing down of original homes that "fit" into the entire neighborhood structure and replacing them with garish, tasteless monstrosities that hulk over their neighbors and shout "look at me"...which is difficult not to do, considering how out of place and out of scale they are. Mission Accomplished.

No, as I said, the opposite of the gate crowd is at work here. While I couldn't afford even the most modest Dilworth bungalow (location, location, location), the characteristic of Myers Park and Dilworth is the very embodiment of architectural diversity, with mansions lining some of the thoroughfares (Queens Road West) and modest homes on many of the "minor" roads (which are usually the targets of the Teardown Vandals).

While homes there, large or small, are still relatively expensive, at least there is the wonderful diversity of size, style, and even price in these unified neighborhoods, a diversity that the Teardown People seek to snuff out.

Probably I should celebrate the existence of the Gated Repositories of Paranoia in the 'burbs, because it is to these artificially and deliberately non- diverse isolation pods that "these people" flee; perhaps by providing these gated "pods" for them and quarantining them there, we would prevent the destruction they wreak in the historic neighborhoods with their teardown frenzy.

And yes: the connectivity and through-travel availability of Myers Park and Dilworth make a huge difference.

Jumper said...

Nice research, rick b.

I started wondering about gated low-income communities. Sometimes I wish I had a gate in my older neighborhood which is by no means rich. But we'd either have to install "buzz-in" system or open the dang thing ourselves to let in the trash trucks, mail delivery, guests, etc. It would be a lot of trouble. As the whole thing has to do with fear, and the gates don't seem to make much difference overall, it may as well just be seen as a "frightened people live here" sign. But if you take the sign away, they'll still be afraid.

There has been some research suggesting more conservative people are more frightened people.

from the 1st article pointed to by rick:
"For high income
households, gated communities had a lower sense of community, contrary to commonly
held perceptions. In addition, there was no reported difference in the sense of community
between low-income gated and non-gated communities. While crime rates differ little between
gated and non-gated communities in low and high-income neighborhoods, low-income
households did not report any difference in perception of safety or community cohesion. The
high-income groups did not report differences by day, but at night, the high-income gated
community residents reported feeling safer than their nongated counterparts. The high-income
gated residents also felt that their neighborhood was safer than other neighborhoods, even though
there were no differences in actual crime rates between neighborhoods. The low-income
communities did not report any comparative safety differences."

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where you guys get your statistics but chew on this-

Do Gates Reduce Crime?
This is the most common question that is asked. The answer is always a qualified, yes.

IMHO, anyone who whines about gated communities are a bunch of babies. Regardless if crime is lower or higher in gated communities, It is the choice of the people that choose to live there. You choose not to so what is the big deal?


Steve said...

Gated Communities are good for the city and tax payers.

1) they yield a 20 increase in property values thus larger property taxes.
2) They do not have city roads – so all road maintenance and repair is paid for by homeowners.- less tax burden
3) They do not have public garbage pick-up – less tax burden
4) Sidewalks and right-a-ways are also maintained by homeowners – less tax burden
5) (statistically) A high majority of children in gated communities go to private school – less tax burden and body burden.
6) Gate communities increase the housing values in the surrounding area (example the same house in Highland Creek – Concord is less expensive then the House in Christenbury Farms in the ungated portion)

Anonymous said...

I lived in a gated community for 14 years, and now I live in an open residential community. The gated community definitely kept non-residents out of the area and it is perceived that the community was "safer." My current neighborhood is in a very nice area but it is open and that means more noise at night, more unidentified cars, uninvited solicitors, and the need for a community watch group and more police security. There are pros and cons for both, but the biggest advantage to a gated community is the reduced number of cars, making it a more relaxing environment for the residents.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on Hilton Head Island. The mecca of gated communities. My hometown symbol should be a gate. I lived in Sea Pines, Hilton Head Plantation and have family now in Windmill Harbor.

Sea Pines charges $5 for the public access. The latter are completely private. Sea Pines is my favorite area because it actually has some activity and diversity.

While completely restrictive communities may be quieter, in my opinion they are counterproductive to a thriving interconnected community and foster distrust and exclusion.

Anonymous said...

Gated communities cut off roads from thru traffic, causing more congestion and pollution. The prohibit pedestrian and bicyle thru traffic causing the area to become more dependent on motorized wheelchairs (aka "cars").

Jim Jones and David Koresh promoted living in gated communities, too, you know.

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