In today’s high-tech world, security can look a lot like a sci-fi movie. Golf clubs' carts can be equipped with laser scanners that can check license plates against an online database of the approved member's vehicles. Elevators will stop on certain floors only if the rider has the correct key card. From a laptop, owners can do everything from allowing a plumber entry into their unit while they are vacationing in the Caribbean to checking out the security feed from cameras in the parking lots.
No Cure for Crime
But security doesn't have to cost a million dollars or involve cutting-edge technology. It can also mean doing something as inexpensive as immediately painting over graffiti and keeping the bushes clear of trash. The appearance of vigilance and a proactive, watchful security policy is every bit as important in keeping an association or building safe as any high-tech gadgetry or expensive monitoring system. “[Attitude and appearance] are very important," says Elliot Boxerbaum, president of Security Risk Management Consultants in Columbus, Ohio. "The more signs of social disorder, the more likely there is to be social disorder.”
No matter how up-to-date or elaborate the technology—or how conscientious the community—what security measures can’t do is eliminate crime completely. The pros agree that the best you can aim for is a program that vehemently encourages criminals to go elsewhere. “I don’t care if you have the FBI, CIA, and 12 police departments, you can’t stop crime. A strong security force may displace it, but it will just go somewhere else,” says Murray Levine, vice president of Florida-headquartered Wackenhut Corporation Security Services.
The steps that go into creating a security program that meets an individual community association’s needs are quite varied and some of the goals don’t even involve security per se, experts say. In addition to protecting owners and their property, security also has an additional function: “It helps protect the image of a community as much as prevent a crime,” says Richard Mullan, vice president of AlliedBarton Security Services, Inc., a national firm with offices in Pleasantville, Voorhees, and West Brunswick.
According to the experts interviewed for this article, there are no rules of thumb in terms of how much a given building or association should budget for security per resident. Nor is there such a thing as a “standard” level of security: For example, a 500-unit suburban development will clearly have different security requirements than that same-sized development in Jersey City or Newark.