Behind the Gates, Pt. 1: Safety of gated communities a perception or reality?

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — 8 News Now is looking into gated communities and assessing their safety. We break down everything, from crime trends to positive aspects and a surprising disadvantage of this type of neighborhood.

The number of people living in gated communities, both nationally and here in Las Vegas, continues to rise.

Many households consider these neighborhoods a safe haven. We wanted to know if that notion of increased safety is perception or reality.

“Gated communities, for the most part, look very secure, and it gives a lot of folks that live in there a sense of comfort of being secure,” explained Sgt. Chris Holman of Henderson PD. “But at the end of the day, if a criminal wanted to get inside the gated community, they’re going to be able to get inside.”

Metro Officer Larry Hadfield said, “I think that gated communities are a great idea. They do provide that layer of security.”

There are certain levels of security. Some of these communities just have … the gate.

“There’s different levels of gated communities,” said homeowner Robert Schultz. “There’s some communities that just have a gate, and you punch in the gate code and go in.”

That code is often a badly kept secret. Homeowners say the gate code is shared with friends, babysitters, the pizza guy and is rarely switched.

“Code hasn’t changed in 20 years!” Schultz revealed.

If the code is unknown, there are other ways to get in.

“Somebody creeps in from behind you and just accesses the gate right behind you,” Holman offered for one scenario.

But that higher level of security, an actual person manning the guard gate, checking ID, license plates and calling homeowners to approve entry, does seem to increase safety.

“And I have gone into a gated community that has a guard, and they check your ID, and they call the person who you’re visiting to verify,” Schultz said, “and that, I think, is the right way to have a gated community.”

Holman backs that up, saying, “A guard up front is probably a better option there because now, you’ve got somebody who is essentially the gatekeeper.”

The numbers bear that out. Justice Quarterly, an academic journal covering criminology, found fewer residential burglaries and less vandalism and opportunistic crime in gated communities.

“I think that when you have a security guard that is manning the actual gate itself, that individual is often asking for an ID, they’re taking down license plates, they are issuing passes,” said Hadfield. “So, that is certainly going to be a deterrence.”

However, another study from the Orlando Sentinel, looking at thousands of homes of similar value, found gated and ungated neighborhoods with nearly identical rates of burglaries and car theft.

There may also be a downside to the guard gate, other than high HOA fees. Non-gated communities have better emergency response times. Police, fire and ambulances have reportedly been stalled by the safety measure.

“Yeah, there have been instances in my career when I have been stopped by a gate,” Hadfield shared.

Holman added, “The gate only opens so fast, so that’s just one slow down there. Sometimes, because it’s mechanical, sometimes, our little device that opens the gate doesn’t trigger correctly, or the gate doesn’t have one of those sensors added to their gate. So, it can slow things down.”

“I think ultimately, what I would say is, security is up to you and whatever personal measures you take at your home,” Hadfield concluded.

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