Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Study: 'Gated' doesn't equal 'safer'

Chief Rodney Monroe had some other interesting things to say, in addition to spilling the beans about the Ritz-Carlton-EpiCentre noise issue.

After giving a short presentation Monday to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, planning commissioner Nina Lipton asked the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief whether he had any data on safety in gated versus nongated communities.

"We looked at that," Monroe said. The police and planning departments matched up communities as closely as they could, looking at income levels, multi-family, single-family and other factors. In terms of crime rates, Monroe said, "We saw no difference."

What matters in terms of neighborhood safety, he said, is who's living there: Are residents looking out for their neighbors? Are they taking responsibility? If it's a rental community, is there professional management? Are renters being screened for criminal records?

Lipton noted that planners often hear "safety" as a reason to avoid following the city's connectivity standards. Monroe essentially shot down that rationale for gated communities. Just making a development gated doesn't make it safer, he said. "Sometimes it creates an opportunity for me to charge you more."

I asked Planning Director Debra Campbell after the meeting for a copy or a link to the study. She said the department was still looking at the methodology to make sure, as she put it, that they were really looking at "apples to apples" comparisons. She said the topic had been a hot one last winter and spring but with the development market so slow the department hadn't seen any reason to rush to give the information to the City Council. (If I were on the council I might ask them for it again.)

Indeed, I wrote a column about that very topic on Feb. 28, after City Council twice winked at its adopted policies on connectivity, despite planning staff opposition. That column isn't available online for a link. (Update: CharlotteObserver.com's fabulous Dave Enna found it. Here's link.) But it described a a Feb. 16 rezoning for a gated apartment complex near Arrowood Road. The other was a Nov. 17, 2008, rezoning for 300 apartments on Woodlawn Road that didn't want the city-desired connecting street. (That development isn't happening; the Charlotte Housing Authority hopes to put a development there.) Not surprisingly, neighbors near both of those proposed developments didn't want more traffic on their streets. Neighbors aren't always right, you know. As I wrote in February, "Facing a double-whammy of developers and neighbors against connectivity, council members' spines tend to take on a jelly-like consistency."

45 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

If a group wishes to gate themselves in, then the cordoning off should be total. Once the gate goes up to keep out the undesirables, then that gate should also serve to keep out police, garbage trucks, firetrucks, school busses, mail trucks, etc. The residents should only have physical contact with the outside world in an area outside of their compound. The knife cuts both ways folks.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had Campbell on the ropes: 'She said the topic had been a hot one last winter and spring but with the development market so slow the department hadn't seen any reason to rush to give the information to the City Council.'

Funny - I suppose I see this a little differently: Now that the development market IS so slow - it's the PERFECT time to look into these policies. When it's busy, they're too busy to look into things....and certainly too busy to make changes. Yet, when it's slow, there's no rush. Talk about a knife cutting both ways.

Seems to me planning should be working harder than they ever have before. What can come out of it – desperately needed change to a very corrupt system….oh my?!

Thanks Nina Lipton.

Louie said...

Having a Planning degree myself, it's been well known for many years that gated communities have the same crime rates as their non-gated neighbors. They simply give their residents a "sense" of safety.

I keep hoping that if anything comes of this recession, that Charlotte will become a bit more laid back, down to earth, and perhaps grow a bit smarter. I guess we'll see!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

So Mary, please differentiate between the types of gated communities you're talking about, or does the study encompass both kinds: (1) gated communities such as apartments and condos where regular people live; and (2) the elitist snob gated communities, such as the ones on Colony Road.

Anonymous said...

The knife cuts both ways folks.

12/08/2009 01:52:00 PM

Amazing amount of ignorance on display. I garuntee you, just one of these homeowners pays more in taxes in a month than you do in a year.

Ghoul said...

Anonymous said...

If a group wishes to gate themselves in, then the cordoning off should be total. Once the gate goes up to keep out the undesirables, then that gate should also serve to keep out police, garbage trucks, firetrucks, school busses, mail trucks, etc. The residents should only have physical contact with the outside world in an area outside of their compound. The knife cuts both ways folks.


As long as they don't have to pay taxes, I think they would go for it.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

If I could afford to live in a gated community I would. So would all of you other wantabes.

Anonymous said...

If private property owners wish to live in a gated community, that should be entirely their business. A city/county zoning board should have no say in the matter, unless public property is affected. Some us still believe in private property rights.

Anonymous said...

I live in a gated community in SC (River Hills in Lake Wylie- in a cul-de-sac). I believe our neighborhood is safer than ungated communities. I lived in Charlotte for 35+ years in Myers Park for reference.

Ifeel safer because I am. We have a security letter that is sent out each month with all the reports. Almost ZERO crime. Some small petty stuff (some unruly teenagers). The only thefts are off the docks and that is rare.

We maintain our own roads, water and sewer along with the landscaping. We have our own ambulance service and have armed guards at the entrances/exists at all times.

Sure, someone could come into the neighborhood and do any a number of things, but why go through the trouble when there a so many other neighborhoods with easy access (did I mention your car and tag get photographed upon entry?)

All this and it costs me the same monthly as what I was paying to live in Charlotte in a smaller house. So enjoy your city and I'll enjoy my fresh air, friends and good times.

BTW, we still pay taxes so why shouldn't we get the services as others who pay taxes (and usually less than we do)

Having a planning degree means you were taught by people who like to push that type of crap. They probabaly also taught you about Global Warming! LMAO

Instead of being envious of people living where they want, you should use that energy in a more productive way.

Engineer

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

^
Silly GOP mean guy.

Is that better ?

Mia said...

You know I have lived in gated communities, general sub-divisions and openly connected neighborhoods and I have to say unequivocally that I like the connected neighborhoods better. You live in a community and it makes getting around your area of town easy for both you and everyone else. Also, connectivity exposes you to other neighborhoods instead of sequestering yourself and your family in a homogenous and closed area. Lastly, everyone pays for these roads and they should be available to everyone. Areas with good connectivity often have less general traffic because everyone is not feeding into one thoroughfare. If people want to be sequestered, it is their right. However, they should pay considerably more for this since the benefit becomes only theirs and not everyone’s.

Anonymous said...

Hey Engineer, I have a gate on my community, which is my front and back yard. It is locked unless I am in it. I do all the maintenance and upkeep. I pay taxes. I have a job. I could live at Lake Wylie but do not choose to. Go flaunt your elitist crapola somewhere else.

J said...

Gated communities have their pluses and minuses. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to live in one. I doubt seriously that there is a substantial difference in crime rates, but if it's purely personal preference to live in one, that's fine with me.

Campbell always has an excuse for why something isn't, or can't be, done. She's as perfect a replication of Wally from the Dilbert comics as I've ever seen.

So my question is, has anyone ever seen Debra Campbell do any actual work?

Anonymous said...

To Mia,
I have no problems getting around my gated community or the surrounding neighborhoods. We have friends from school, church and other activities that we meet and become friends with people outside our gated neighborhood. We even have friends from before we moved into the neighborhood that still visit!!

Did I mention the pools, tennis courts, boat access, marina, walking trails, Clubhouse, trees, flowers, well kept yards/common areas and golf course?

You can use our roads- just have to ask for entry first- as I said, we pay for our own roads, water, garbage and sewer services.

If you dislike a gated community, why would you want to drive on their roads anyway? People pay taxes for many things they do not use- why pick on a few roads?

Like you said, let people live where they like.

BTW, the argument on getting sewer services "way out there", where is the Wastewater Treatment plant the center city sends there waste to? Remember wastes flows to the plants (and they are not located downtown)

Engineer

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Meant to write- I was just showing what you can get in our gated community (in SC)for the same cost of living in the great liberal community of Charlotte.

Less crime and a whole bunch more. Don't hate me because I found happiness on where I live. Maybe you should do the same?

Engineer

Anonymous said...

Mary,
Removing posts that show how idiotic some peoples arguements are?
How liberal of you.

Engineer

Anonymous said...

Interested to see the study to compare specific crimes ( murder, B & E, etc.) not just a general crime rate.
If what you get in a gated community is mostly car breakins or home burglary versus violent crime...there is a big difference in how people may perceive "safety."

consultant said...

Who's the number one gated city in America?

I would think Miami is at the top. Driving around some of their neighborhoods, I feel like I'm in the vicinity of some deposed dictator (probably am). Compounds, tall gates and discreet security guards all over the place.

All of this gating off of entire blocks and housing communities destroys any sense of "community". It chops up streets and makes people take crazy zig-zag routes to get from point A to point B. Developers don't care; they don't live there. But the city council and the mayor should.

I know some people don't want that. They don't want the guvment to decide such matters, which is why I wish "they" would go live in Gitmo, or go way up into the mountains and find a cave to take up residence in.

Here in metro Atlanta, if the developer builds a gated community, streets, lights and everything else are PRIVATE.

Over the last decade, some homeowners who have bought into these gated subdivisions were not told that, or ignored it, until it was time to fix something they assumed the city/county was responsible for.

Man, do those people know how to shout. To no avail though.

You bought into privacy, now you've got to pay for that privacy.

Mary Newsom said...

The study looked at "Part 1" crimes - a category of violent crimes in FBI reports, Monroe said. I.e, burglary, robbery, rape, etc. It didn't look at white-collar crimes such as stock fraud, insider trading, etc.

And to answer an earlier question: The study compared gated apartment complexes, single-family developments with others, trying to match by price point as well as size of development.

Anonymous said...

Gates may not make you safer, but being heavily armed does.

consultant said...

"It didn't look at white-collar crimes such as stock fraud, insider trading, etc."

If you go in that direction, some of our high-income gated communities are cesspools of crime. Crime is around every corner. In every Range Rover, leaking around the cabanas and spas.

The gates in those places are to keep the police and legal subpoenas out.

Anonymous said...

what was the purpose of Nina Lipton asking that question?

Anonymous said...

ah, consultant, then we should all be equally afraid of Al Gore's carbon credit company and the millions he stands to make from defrauding us. You're right, we should be fearful!
Perhaps if we all lived in Thomas Friedman's house he might stop he incessant preaching and live like a regular guy...

consultant said...

Anonymous "05:10:00 PM"

What??

Jumper said...

Yes, the gated communities help ensure you are only required to interact with the better sort of criminals.

Seriously, I can think of some valid reasons for living in such. It's those who don't have any such reasons that are open to ridicule. I don't see it as a large issue, although the fire department has connectivity issues that are real and have to do with real mortality issues.

rick b said...

I'm glad that "engineer" brought up River Hills as an example of Gated Safety...fifteen years ago there was a particularly nasty double-stabbing homicide by a family member right there in purty ol' River Hills. Shook up them eeee-leeet-ist folks quite a bit!

In fact, cases of major crimes taking place "behind the gates" are very common. Frequently, a "moving van" has been known to enter a gated subdivision, back up to a house whose owners are away, and clean the whole place out. The illusion of security makes the neighbors lower their guard, and not question such a truck because "if he got past the gate, he must belong here".

Whether it is gate codes, transponders, or other weak links in the security system, professionals can find ways around these measures and choose the gated communities to rob - because professionals know that "that's where the good stuff is". Guards such as the River Hills Posse are more effective, but are very expensive and are a feature of only a small percentage of gated communities.

In our town, we do not permit gated subdivisions. There are several public-purpose reasons, not the least of which is the road maintenence problem that often crops up with these compounds. After a while, the HOA charges keep going up and the residents start getting antsy about the cost and before you know it, they're coming after the taxpayers to pick up the tab for them. Consultant touched on that problem.

No, in our town it's DOT-approved, DOT-maintained streets.

Also, our town recently held a crime workshop with the Union County Sheriff and several community-policing deputies. Their findings concurred: gated neighborhoods are, at best, only marginally safer than open neighborhoods. The only "crimes" that show any sort of reduction behind the gates are the most minor vandalism problems.

A developer in our town is building a small, very high-dollar neighborhood. He's truly one of the rare "good guys" among developers, and he will be living in the subdivision along with several family mambers. He went in knowing about the no-gate rule and was fine with it; each driveway or pair of driveways inside the subdivision has gates on them, but the main entrance to the subdivision is open. He has had some concerns about trash dumping and loitering while there are no occupied homes in the neighborhood, but we have worked with the Sheriff's Office to get random patrols. Although the subdivision is just barely started, there are several residents of neighboring homes who can clearly see the subdivision entrance; one of them actually saw a trash-dumper entering late at night and didn't call 911. Our sheriff has emphasized that residents should call with any problem or suspicious person/vehicle, no matter how minor. We are fortunte that our Sheriff's Department isn't as burdened as the busy CMPD, so our deputies actually expect to respond to such calls.

I find a city or town that is cut up into little enclaves of gated privilege to be a city or town that will have a hard time building a sense of community. And it is a sense of community - not police or gates - that provides the greatest safety to the citizens. Neighborhood watch organizations are better than gates or additional police. It's time for citizens to realize that public safety starts with them, not with law enforcement and not with barricades.

JDC said...

A gated neighborhood will always be safer than a traditional development.

For starters, you don't have door-to-door solicitors walking around day and night, pretending to be raising donations for a crippled-children's soccer team. In actuality they may be casing your cars and houses, figuring out who is home or not and when.

According to the Constitution (see legal cases involving "Green River Ordinances", we all have first amendment rights along public streets. The only way to impede them is to place a "No Trespassing" sign at the end of your driveway. If they ignore it, you have pretty good grounds to get them locked up. But that still doesn't prevent them from walking along the sidewalk ans casing out your house.

I live in a non-gated neighborhood near SouthPark Mall. We have an active crime watch program. Neighbors are not shy about calling police whenever they see anything unusual - no matter how trivial it may seem.

The police show up. They want to be notified. That's why I'm paying taxes.

We haven't had a break-in, car theft, vandalism or other "outside-initiated" crime or disturbance crime since instituting this program with the police several years ago.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous "05:10:00 PM"

What??

What????? There is no debate on Global warming. There are plenty of researchers that do not go along with the kool aid drinkers.

Anonymous said...

^

Yeah, a handful "plenty" of GOP losers that disagree.

Compared to thousands of scientists around the world. Even if you don't believe in it Bozo, surely you can agree that less pollution is always a better thing. Whether it effects the Earths temperature or not.

Anonymous said...

I like my neighbors. I like meeting new people outside of my comfort-zone. It makes me realize that I am not as big as I think I am sometimes. I'll trade off the perception of "crime" for a more broad world-view any day.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the community.
My parents lived in a gated community in south Florida that was for 55 and older.
Anyone who was younger than that was scrutinized. I had a hard time getting in once when my parents forgot to call my name in. I had to pull to the side and wait until they could call them and verify I was visiting.
To my knowledge, they had very little crime; mostly from kids jumping the back fence where trees hid them from security. Most were caught and prosecuted.
Even pizza delivery was verified.

I felt they were safer there ( since retirees are the prey of choice for south Florida punks) than when they moved to Boynton and the community had no gate. Again, it was for 55 and older but they had many incidents where kids roamed freely and robbed several homes ( snowbirds who were away in the summer ).

I don't begrudge anyone living in a gated community. That is just class warfare or envy. "Sense of community" sounds more like a buzzword to complain about how someone else is living.
I don't feel a sense of community with Myers Park because i don't livve there. Nor do I get that from Mint Hill.
I do have great neighbors because I've gotten to know them and they all care about what happens in our neighborhood. I guess you might call that a sense of community for a few streets but no Charlotte as a whole.

consultant said...

"I do have great neighbors because I've gotten to know them and they all care about what happens in our neighborhood."

Well, that's what we mean by "community".

Community has nothing to do with inclusion or exclusion. It has more to do with a knowledge of and sense of attachment to a place, whether you live there or not.

There are places you can go in this country that upon arriving you feel like, "hey, I could hang out here for a while." They feel homey.

We have enough history in this country to know what these places look like. Some are small, a block or two, others encompass entire neighborhoods.

Go to any place (city, suburb, etc.) and ask residents, where do people like to hang out, just because it's a cool, nice, interesting, comfortable or useful area? The answers will vary but there will also be a surprising number of common responses.

Those "common" responses are areas of "community" in your area.

JDC said...

Wouldn't Chief Monroe have a self-serving interest in wishfully thinking that gated Charlotte nieghborhoods are not necessarily safer?

If all Charlotte neighborhoods were gated, and had their own security force, would you need Chief Monroe? Yes, you'd still need some men in blue, but probably not nearly as many.

The fact the planning director was reluctant to release the study for independent review and analysis hints that maybe someone was blowing smoke.

Eman said...

People are entitled to live in whatever type of community or neighborhood that they want.

This 'study' is a complete crock. Gated communities ARE safer as the gate and better security, ofted stationed at the front gate, keeps out a lot of the criminal riff-raf.

Anonymous said...

Mary, congratulations on the new baby!!

I say that because you haven't posted anything new here as of December 8, so obviously you are on maternity leave.

(Not even Wall Street types or Obama get that much vacation time at this time of year).

Anonymous said...

Or maybe she was laid off.

consultant said...

Happy Holidays & a new year to everyone!!

consultant said...

Here's hoping "you know who" got civic books for Xmas.

There will be a test on how to improve our urban areas after Mary returns.

Happy new year everyone!

Anonymous said...

"To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt" Thomas Jefferson