Access control11th Feb 2019
Most people who buy into secure residential communities do so in order to be – or at least feel – more secure. As well as genuinely offering security and privacy, gates and fences enhance the perception of safety. And this, in turn, increases property values, helps to attract new residents, and allows managers and owners to charge a premium for services and rentals.
Does access control reduce crime?
This is the most frequently asked question, and the answer is a qualified “yes”. Formidable perimeter fencing restricts access and provides both a physical and psychological barrier to criminals. Fences and working gates definitely reduce unauthorised vehicle and foot traffic, especially late at night and early in the morning. For many properties, the traffic reduction alone is enough to bring down parking lot and street crime.
Note we’re talking about working gates. The effectiveness of gates and fencing depends on the kind of property, the nature of the residents, and the management controls in place. Gates and fencing work best on a stable property with mature residents, who are likely to be proactive in preventing unauthorised access by, for example, tailgaters, or people asking to be let in “to drop off some flowers for my aunt”.
Criminals want to access enviroments anonymously and blend into a community of strangers. Many criminals will bypass a gated community for one that is not gated simply because of the restricted access. Criminals like quick escape routes and don’t want to be trapped behind fences or gates if they are discovered, so homeowners’ associations should think long and hard about how they want to control people exiting the property, as well as those entering it.
Gated communities are more secure than ungated ones, but no estate can claim to prevent absolutely all crime. Gates and fences are just one tool in an effective security package. The residents need to be educated to use the gate system properly, how to bypass it in case of malfunction or power failure, and how report abuse and damage. More importantly, residents must take responsibility for their own security by reporting or challenging unauthorised persons using the gates, and must ensure they do not give out gate codes unnecessarily. Management should regularly change the master gate code to screen out former repair vendors, a zillion pizza delivery companies, and previous residents.
Which gate type and system is best?
This depends on the purpose of the gate and the type of property. Swinging gates look nicer, but are more expensive to install and maintain, are not suitable for high traffic areas, and tend to get damaged by motorists more often than sliding gates. Horizontal sliding gates are less attractive, but are cheaper to purchase and maintain, and more resilient if clipped by a car.
With any type of gate system, in-ground loop detectors are required to automatically signal when a car is present so that the automatic gate operator can function – and also so that a vehicle gate will not open for pedestrians. Loop detectors can also be used to allow vehicles to leave the property without using a code or remote.
Of course, every gate is only as good as the system supporting it, Secsyst Access ensure that the intercoms, keypads or remotes work effectively. Some additional features include biometric access, licence scanners linked to a database and video cameras. Video cameras must be carefully placed so that, if they’re not backed up by number plate scanners, they record number plates, and, if possible, faces. One excellent system is to have a video camera right above the access pad, so that motorists will be photographed through the open car window when they key in their code. Video can also be linked to the intercom. All these systems can be linked to cellphones rather than to the houses so that a resident can grant access to a visitor even when not at home.
Are automated gates cost-effective?
While there is a cost associated with gates, they are significantly cheaper than having security guards staff the entrance 24/7, but one must also factor in the cost of intercom systems, remote buttons and other ancillaries such as video cameras.
What are the disadvantages?
Gates can also be a barrier to emergency services like the police, armed response or fire service, so it It is extremely important to have a system that allows them quick access. Another disadvantage is that gates can be damaged by accident – or even on purpose by would-be intruders – leaving your complex wide open. In a case like this it’s important to get them fixed promptly. Power failures can also be a problem, so the gate should ideally have a long-life backup battery as well as a lockable manual override. Tailgating is possible on an unstaffed automatic gate, but this problem can be dealt with if residents take ownership of the access process. Speed bumps help as well.
So do we, or don’t we?
The decision to install gates on a property creates a love-hate relationship. Residents love those gates, but they can be a pain for management to maintain. Gates can help increase occupancy, but may also wreak havoc with the maintenance budget. The net financial effect might seem negative at first, but the difference could well be made up in resident retention and a reduction in crime, police call-outs and property damage. Speak to us at Secsyst Access, We like gates … You decide.