Communication stands out to me as having the greatest impact in creating a healthier and a safer community. Some of the best protection can come from fostering friendships and common purpose in your community. Education, involvement, awareness, and compassion allow for communities to do just that. Once you have created a healthy community that cares and shares, then today’s security advancements can offer some truly effective and efficient methods of extending your communities self-awareness and document and store evidence that may be used to defend, prosecute, or institute proactive measures.
Miscommunication often leads to discontent, ignorance, apathy, and, eventually, arguments. In a community, where many of these arguments stem from personal issues, the repercussions can be very serious. When a community is at odds with itself, it does not operate in a fashion that promotes the best interest of the community. The community becomes a danger to itself, and the growing arguments may even spill over to violence, vandalism, and other forms of public displays of anger and discontent. Flagrant disregard for the community’s governing body and the rules and regulations that form the fabric of the community’s structure will strain the community financially and emotionally and send a message to those that prey on weakened communities that your community is a ripe target for their ill intentions. So, how can better communication provide your community with better security, and how can it be achieved?
Promote friendships within the community so that people know their neighbors and, more importantly, care about them. People work hard all day, dealing with many frustrations and should look forward to having fun at home and in their community. Friendly neighbors are better able to identify suspicious activity because they become familiar with the routines and visitors of their neighbors and, because they care, they are more likely to report it to someone, including law enforcement. Community activities such as holiday parties, charitable fundraisers, community clean-ups, and monthly mixers at the clubhouse or pool area are great opportunities to foster these relationships. Community leaders and managers should try to attend these activities. These get-togethers can be the platform for important community announcements or the backdrop for the presentation of community recognitions and awards.
Provide and promote various opportunities for education on subjects like understanding cultural differences, conflict resolution, community safety, CPR, dealing with special needs children or whatever topics may be affecting your community. Many organizations and government agencies offer free classes or presentations, such as local law enforcement. Crime prevention officers (CPO’s), for instance, are highly experienced and well-trained law enforcement professionals who recognize the value of engaging and educating the community in crime prevention initiatives. Crime prevention officers typically have had years of experience responding to the crimes that are most likely to occur in your communities.
Effective communication starts at the beginning. Providing an informative interview and orientation for new residents, owners, and renters alike will set the tone for a positive introduction to the community. A tour of the community, pointing out community security features such as lighting, access control points, and locations of video surveillance can help new residents feel safer, and they may be more likely to embrace and use these features. Explain the importance and benefit of keeping security keys and codes private and have a plan for deactivating access credentials when residents leave the community. New residents will be better informed and may be more likely to get involved if they understand the issues facing the community from the start. They may also learn that the community is not a good fit for them before they become committed, avoiding a bad situation later. When residents don’t understand the expectations of the community, or if they feel that the community doesn’t care enough to enforce their rules, then these rules are often largely disregarded causing conflict. Community security or board members are then challenged to deal with these behaviors.
Prevent small conflicts from escalating into major issues by addressing them immediately. Encourage residents to come to you by creating a safe environment in which they feel comfortable to honestly and openly voice their frustrations. Listen with your mind to achieve understanding and with your heart to convey compassion. All conversations held in your office should remain completely confidential, so avoid audio and video surveillance here. Use signs and otherwise alert people when they are in an area where audio and/or video is being recorded. Guards and board members should be offered both effective communication and conflict resolution training. Professional mediators may be an alternative to litigation and some even specialize in community association mediation. In our increasingly dangerous world, whenever possible, you want to attain compliance willingly. Enforcement is good, but willing compliance is better.
Challenge yourself to understand cultural and religious differences, often words and gestures are interpreted very differently. Offer translations as often as possible within communities with a high percentage of residents whose primary language is foreign. Post signs in two or more languages when appropriate and pre-recorded messages for the community should be re-run in all of the languages appropriate for the majority of the residents to be able to comply.
Send a message to non-residents that your community is safe and healthy. Use signs to announce security measures your community has implemented. Encourage residents to keep security codes, keys, and credentials confidential for the good of the community. Keep the community clean and organize a community clean-up day! Enforce community restrictions immediately and fairly, allowing the residents time to comply or discuss the issue with you. Fix damaged or worn community-owned and managed fixtures and equipment immediately. Make sure your community has ample lighting that is always on. Send a message to those that prey on weakened communities that your community is a bad target for their ill intentions.
Security guards and virtual security guards, remote guards aided by two-way audio and high-tech video surveillance, can further extend the reach and coverage of the community, acting as an extension of the community, to promote the best interests of their association members. Guards, either live or remote, often add the most value during hours that the rest of the community may not be available to do it themselves, during work day hours or late at night for instance. There are many options for security technology, including access control and surveillance equipment that can aid in your communities protection, however with the many advancements it is recommended that you contract with a security professional that is licensed and insured properly and that complies with all permitting and building codes. Have monthly or quarterly meetings with your security personnel and employees to ensure everyone has the most current information and understands the objectives of the community.
Promoting communication within your community will pay great dividends towards creating a healthy, happy, and safer community. There are many ways to foster communication in your association. Newsletters, active community billboards, signs, social media, robust websites, community activities, community awards, and many other forms of communication are available. Community meetings can be supported by technologies that allow video conferencing, or that allow viewing through internal cable stations, and can be used to keep the community informed. All or most of these methods should be interactive, promoting community participation. Of course choosing the right words, listening with our hearts and minds instead of just our ears, and getting our message across are skills we all need to work on, but it is worth the investment.
For more information, call (855) 936-8372 or visit enverasystems.com.