Helping Residents Feel Safe in Their Community

Organizing a community watch program can have a number of positive effects on a community, and several products can help with security as well.

Many people feel helpless against crime, because it is too often seen as an inevitable part of our society. This belief leads to fear and apathy—one of the most dangerous elements in society today.

The typical approach to crime is reactive. Once a crime has been committed, the police begin a preliminary investigation. It is certainly more cost-effective to prevent a crime from even occurring. Crime prevention is the proactive side of law enforcement and is more desirable because it addresses the potential for crime before it becomes a serious problem.

Unfortunately, many people don’t address crime situations before it is too late. A good example of this is a victim of burglary who suddenly becomes interested in security systems.

Multifamily residents need to feel they are a vital part of a healthy community. When residents feel at home, they are more apt to take pride and ownership of the area. When that sense of community is lacking, residents will be less likely to report suspicious or illegal activity and this, ultimately, leads to apathy throughout the community.

When apathy pervades, so-called undesirables can more easily take over the area. The only thing necessary for negative activities to flourish is for residents to do nothing to stop them. Good managers and good residents must learn to work together for the common goal of a safe community.

Developing an apartment crime watch program

Unless your residents report suspicious behavior, you may not find out about the problem until it becomes extreme. Some people are frightened to report illegal activity, until they discover the strength in numbers of joining a community watch organization. Whatever you call your efforts, the goal is the same: transforming an apartment complex into a community.

Organizing a community watch is more than just encouraging residents to act as the eyes and ears of the community. In the absence of a sense of community, the isolation that residents feel can lead to apathy, withdrawal, anger and even hostility toward the community around them. Organizing efforts can lead to profound changes; as apartment residents get to know each other and the managers, a sense of community develops and residents are more willing to do what it takes to keep a neighborhood healthy and crime-free.

Apartment properties that enjoy a sense of community often have more stable tenancies and lower crime rates. Managers who have initiated such efforts note that less crime retains good residents, reduces building manager turnover, decreases the amount of damage to property and lowers repair bills and reduces liability.

Additionally, residents will pay more to stay in a proactive crime prevention building, and of course, a positive reputation for the building leads to higher quality applicants and, over time, increased property values.

A few crime prevention tips that multifamily owners can integrate into their communities include investing in their building managers, providing them with the resources to properly screen residents, report crime and provide guidance on building safety; providing an easy-to-use resident education and training program; and working with your local police departments to form a community partnership to reduce crime.

Products

SafeRise from FST21 recently received the Best New Product of the Year Award at the 2011 Security Industry Association conference. SafeRise is a controlled access solution that utilizes second-generation biometrics, a fusion of voice, face, and license plate recognition technologies with video, voice and behavioral analytics (www.fst21.com).

No special software or IT staff is needed for any of Schlage’s security solutions since they feature its bright blue Web-based controller, which manages a facility’s points of entry. The Schlage Simple Security Solution leverages Schlage AD-Series electronic locks and smart card credentials, which provide an adaptable system. Video and service packages complete the full security offering (w3.securitytechnologies.com).

KeyTrak Multifamily systems now provide the ability to reserve keys for use on a future date. Users can set up reservations for keys, customizable prompts and alarms to certify the key is back in the system for the reserved date. The “Current Reservations” and “Missed Reservations” reports have been added to track reservations that have not passed and reservations that were not checked out before the time the reserved keys were supposed to be checked out (www.keytrak.com).

With Kwikset’s Key Control Deadbolt, featuring SmartKey re-key technology, either cylinder can be re-keyed in seconds, without removing the lock from the door. The top concealed cylinder provides one-key control for the property manager, and the lower exposed cylinder allows unique user keys for residents (www.kwikset.com).

James Rea is the CEO of Helpp Innovations, which operates Helpp-Watch, the first online crime prevention education and training resource for building managers and residents. He can be reached at james@helppinnovations.com.