Friday December 25, 2009
Guarded over gates
BY SUJESH PAVITHRAN
The Star Newspaper
To gate or not to gate ... that is the perplexing question.
EMOTIONS are escalating over the issue of gated and guarded communities, if media reports are anything to go by.
Participants say it gives them peace of mind, never mind the cost and inconvenience but the naysayers are fuming at what they view as an infringement of their right to unhindered access to where they live.
At the least, I’m a proponent of guarded communities. Look, we will never have policemen patrolling housing areas around the clock. If the crime rate were negligible, this would not be an issue. It isn’t, and many of us are thus driven to setting up extra protection in our neighbourhoods.
You don’t have to be a victim of crime to take precautions. Better to be safe and put up with some hassles, than be sorry.
Yet, are some residents’ associations taking it too far?
I’ve been to gated communities where the alleys and back-lanes are permanently barricaded – as if petty thieves on motorbikes and on foot can’t find their way through these barriers!
Access is limited to just a road or two. As a visitor to the area, I’m inconvenienced by this; heck, even residents paying for the service tell me this is a bit much but dare not speak up at meetings. I can imagine how those who don’t contribute to the security arrangements would feel.
Where I live, we took the guarded community route about eight months ago, and the crime rate in the area has dropped drastically since then, to almost zero. We’ve stopped short of hard barricades – our guards use plastic cones to make motorists slow down for a security check.
The guards are posted around the clock at all access points, and additional ones patrol the area regularly. Compared to the barricades and metal drums I’ve seen in other areas, ours is a mild system, but it has worked well and the guards have always practised non-confrontational behaviour – they are polite but alert.
My point – our safety objective has been met without roads being permanently closed. Even those not paying for the service enjoy living in a crime-free zone, and if they complain about needing to slow down at the check-points, I say, “too bad, live with it!”
However, barricading roads permanently is a bit drastic, and surely, a compromise can be reached? Say, a mid-ground that doesn’t require a housing area to look like a restricted military zone, and yet, with enough security measures, including alert guards constantly monitoring the area with minimal impediment to residents?
Just because your car hasn’t been stolen or your purse snatched or your house broken into doesn’t mean you and your loved ones are always going to be this fortunate. So don’t get your hackles up over others taking precautionary measures as long as they’re not extreme.
Safety comes with some inconveniences, but that’s the world we live in these days. Crime won’t stop by itself, so we need to institute measures to get back our streets and neighborhoods. Heck, we need to feel safe at home!
Be prepared to give in a bit, and I’m sure both sides can reach an amicable solution. I have a suggestion – give the guards a list of car registration numbers of residents in the area, whether or not they subscribe to the service.
This will make it easier for them to recognize residents’ vehicles, so there won’t be any need to stop these cars for questioning.
Look, if you won’t contribute, at least don’t impede and if you can, don’t be so rigid as to forget that others have their rights, too.
Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy 2010 ahead. Ho, ho, ho, indeed ...