by Crystal Clark
With increasing crime and vandalism as well as an increase in foreclosures, communities and their property managers are faced with the decision of how to keep communities safe while maintaining a budget that residents can afford. Today’s technology has opened the doors for cost savings by using technology to enhance community security.
We have all seen it—Teenagers vandalizing community pools and common areas, throwing furniture, glass, and other debris in the pool. We’ve also seen tailgaters knocking entry gates off their hinges and unauthorized residents causing destruction in the clubhouse. These things happen, and the community must continue to pay to fix these issues or property values will decline.
So what technologies are available to help increase community security?
Smart Cameras—Smart cameras represent an emerging trend and are a high growth area of the security industry. Smart cameras have built-in analytics that can identify whether a person has entered an area, or if it was simply a stray animal crossing the area. They can tell the difference between cars and people, and they can also identify which direction an object is going, or if a normally stationary object has been removed from the area. If people are not authorized to enter the secured area, an alarm signal will be sent to a central station monitoring center where licensed operators can then view the cameras. If trespassing is occurring, the central station operators can voice down to the vandals, letting them know that the site is being actively monitored and recorded, and asking them to leave the premises immediately. Multiple locations can be monitored at the same time, which reduces the labor costs associated with securing a community.
Smart cameras are commonly used to monitor and secure community amenities such as tot lots, tennis courts, swimming pools, parks, and other areas after they have been closed and no one is permitted to enter. If someone comes into these areas after hours, alarm signals are sent and can be responded to accordingly. As mentioned above, some central monitoring stations deploy two-way voice technology with these cameras so that they can see and speak to intruders and ask them to leave. This means that intruders are responded to in seconds instead of minutes. Since the monitoring station can identify the intruders by what they are wearing or doing, intruders often leave immediately and authorities are not called. This deters the vandalism from occurring and no longer just records it.
Access Control—Access control can be used by residents, property managers, and vendors to grant or deny access to various points throughout a community. Days and times can be set so that residents can only enter amenities from dusk to dawn, or vendors can only enter during standard business hours. Detailed reports of those entering the community or various amenities are available through today’s advanced access control solutions. These solutions use various credentials to allow entry including pin numbers, RFID cards or fobs, or even biometric identifiers such as fingerprints. This electronic means of entry helps prevent after hours loitering as well as tracks each person entering a controlled area. For example, many communities experience issues with copies of their pool keys being given to non-residents, resulting in the ability of unauthorized guests to freely access the community pool. By adding electronic access control solutions, this issue could be eliminated.
Visitor Verification—Many gated communities would like the ability to verify each guest entering their community. Emerging technology has the ability to do this while still allowing quick entry into a gated community by approved guests. For example, driver’s license scanners have proven to be an effective tool in helping to verify guests, if integrated with the proper solution. In the case of Virtual Guards, the driver’s license scanner can be compared to live video footage being recorded at the gate entrance in order to verify and confirm a registered guest. When used in conjunction with license plate cameras, this technology can track each visitor entering a community. It also provides a video database that enables users to quickly access information regarding who was driving a specific vehicle entering the community, by date and time, if necessary. Many live guards perform a similar function by comparing the license to the guest name registered. Often times, the license is not scanned, resulting in the communities lack of ability to retrieve critical records in the event that it requires information regarding specific visitors. Specific technology and software is required in order to make visitor verification an effective tool.
Virtual Guards—A Virtual Guard is typically an off-site guard that monitors the site remotely though live video and audio communications. Central station monitoring operators provide these services and are an effective and cost-efficient alternative or enhancement to a traditional guard. The virtual guards can see many points within a community at one time and often times are monitoring multiple communities at one time which helps spread out the costs associated with having a guard. In addition, some communities use virtual guards at gate points allowing a live guard to roam the community and assist with resident needs.
So Back To The Initial Question—Is Security Technology Worth It?
Technology is an integral part of everything we do on a daily basis. It secures our airports, government offices, schools, and hospitals. It only makes sense to use technology in our communities. Technology can enhance existing security by being employed in conjunction with live guards, or alternatively, it can be used to replace live guards in order to provide increased coverage in addition to cost savings. Communities have significantly reduced vandalism at their amenities by adding technology. You can’t intimidate a camera or a virtual guard watching from a remote location. And the advantages of having video verification and archiving of guests is invaluable to communities. Communities such as Boynton Landings in Boynton Beach, FL have found that by implementing technology at their gate points, “suddenly, the community was host to a calm, smooth-running gate environment” says, Paula Douglas, Board President, while staying within a reasonable security budget.
Crystal Clark leads the marketing department for Envera Systems, which specializes in securing communities utilizing the latest technology. For more information, visit enverasystems.com.