Hidden Realities of Gated Communities
Nothing screams "American Dream" more than a big, green plot of land you can put a fence around to keep the barbarians out. That's why so many Americans - 11 million households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey - have set up camp behind the luxurious walls of gated communities. But is an isolated and elite community really that much safer than a townhouse on Main street? We found that despite the 20 percent increase in cost to live in these communities, the price of a home behind a gate doesn't necessarily come with a safer lifestyle.
Safety Reality #1: Everyone's Cable Guy Knows The Gate Code
The major selling point for gated communities is a sense of heightened security that any outsider wishing to do harm (or deliver a pizza) must first get past the fortress of a four digit access code. The problem with this form of protection is a practical one: family, friends, cable guys, and crazy, determined exes will all have easy access to get through this security hurdle. With the sheer amount of people you and your neighbors will let in, all a burglar has to do to gain entrance is hide behind the guy delivering the shiny new refrigerator.
Safety Reality #2: Limited Access To Emergency Aid
On the flipside of gates not really doing their job in keeping the ill-intentioned out, they can also make it more difficult for help - think ambulances and police cars - from getting in. With the average response time coming in at ten minutes, stalling emergency aid with a glitch-y sliding gate can mean life or death in extreme situations. Unmanned gate entrances that lack the attention of a security guard glued to a tiny TV set are even more vulnerable to increased response times.
Safety Reality #3: Gated Communities Don't Significantly Affect Crime Rates
For all the extra costs of living in a gated community, crime rates in enclosed neighborhoods aren't that much better than those of communities that aren't fenced in. In fact, serious crimes are pretty consistent between gated and non-gated communities. While minor crimes such as petty thefts and vandalism are reportedly lower in gated neighborhoods, a recent study published by Justice Quarterly found that certain crimes such as "intimate partner violence" are actually at a higher rate in households that are part of a gated community.
Safety Reality #4: One Gate Isn't Enough
Once settled comfortably in a gated community, most people don't consider seeking further protection for their individual home, especially when they're paying sky-high HOA fees on top of dishing out thousands of dollars more than average on their two-story colonial. Unfortunately, restricted community entrances and a neighborhood watch group made up of the finest middle-aged dads on your block won't keep all outside dangers at bay. Since gated communities don't necessarily have a positive influence on whether or not homes will be broken into, relying solely on the outside gate of a gated community is a gamble. For proper surveillance and protection, getting a home security system installed in your home is crucial. This way, you'll have your own codes that you won't have to share with your neighbor's pizza delivery guy.
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