Estate security is still up to residents

South Africa's property landscape is dotted with "designer laagers" intended
to provide superior security for residents, and homebuyers happily pay a
premium to live in these gated communities.

All too frequently, however, the headlines scream about incidents right
inside these supposedly watertight domains, and it's then that the Home
Owners' Association (HOA) usually gets called upon to beef up security.

"Personal security is such an elusive thing," says Jo Pelser, MD of leading
residential developer Sable Homes. "At one moment, life seems warm and fuzzy
and the next, the end of the world seems to be crashing in when the
unthinkable becomes horrible reality.

"HOAs are then frequently dragged centre stage to try to prevent a
re-occurrence of the problem. And their usual reaction is to provide more
entry security, armed patrols, video cameras, fences and high-tech gadgetry.

"But while HOAs should of course be conscious of the security issue and try
to make the estate reasonably safe and secure, they and the residents should
be aware that no system is absolutely foolproof."

What is more, he says, the residents of gated communities are often their
own worst enemies when it comes to security. "They leave security gates open
while they just pop out to the shops, hand out keys and gate codes to their
friends and will rarely question strangers on the property even if they see
them up to something suspicious.

"So, rather than installing more sophisticated security equipment, the HOA
should perhaps tackle this weak link in the chain, by forming a
Neighbourhood Watch committee, for example. It can also send out or post
periodic reminders about specific security issues.

"The HOA can also host guest speakers from the police service or security
companies because although we all know what we should do, reminders do help
keep us better security focused.

 "And finally, the HOA should not neglect to do the relatively inexpensive,
practical things that are the basis of good security: Make sure exterior
lighting is well placed and working, install heavy duty gates and locks and
cut back trees and bushes that provide cover for 'baddies' and interfere
with electric fencing."

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