our everyday life

Open vs. Gated Community

by Lee Grayson, studioD

Medieval villagers lived within the walls of the main castle complex and used the castle lord's military and fellow residents to protect the community. The walls deterred uninvited guests and the gate closed or the drawbridge rolled up at night for protection. Modern housing developments adopt the same castle mentality with guard gates and fences. Gates and walls add monthly costs for homeowners inside the development, but these communities don't always offer the protection homeowners expect.

Creating Boundaries

Gated housing creates a boundary separating residents from the open community outside the walls or fences. The International Foundation for Protection Officers outlines three types of gated communities: lifestyle, elite and security. Each type attracts a specific group of people to the gated neighborhood: lifestyle developments restrict the amenities and leisure activities to area residents. Residents in elite communities look less for neighborhood interaction and more for a community presence that creates the look of status for the residents. The security zone neighborhood establishes the community as an island limiting access to the homes inside. Gentrified areas in central cities, for example, frequently use gates as a way to separate the new residents from the former neighborhood.

Crime Reduction

Gates imply increased security and a reduction in crime if guests must check with a security guard or use a secret code or swipe a card when arriving or leaving. Developers use this feeling of security to market homes to new buyers, even when the community offers few other security features such as nighttime lighting, home security systems and emergency phones located throughout the neighborhood. However, gates fail to deter major serious crime. Gates also create a false security, according to security expert Rony Joseph. This leads to ignoring normal precautions, such as closing windows at night, that open-community members routinely do for safety.

Cost Scales

Elaborate gates and fencing add dollars to property prices within the community, which means monthly, quarterly or yearly payments to the neighborhood association or to the hired security service. The most costly gated communities offer round-the-clock guards and neighborhood security patrols. Payments for this service includes salaries and benefits and operation of a formal guard house and insured patrol cars. Gates with keypad codes cost less, but homeowners must still for pay maintenance and repair of the system and the security gates.

Sense of Security

Some gated communities have what crime researchers call a "perceived gate" that offers only an unstaffed guardhouse and no real barrier to outside visitors. Suk Kyung Kim, doctoral researcher from Texas A&M University, reported in 2006 that apartment residents living in perceived-gated communities felt the same overall sense of safety as those residing in gated communities with formal guards, even though the two have much different security levels. Fulbright scholar Renaud Le Goix warns that the search for neighborhood security helps contribute to a movement of neighborhood secession from the greater society, and this means less access for non-residents to area parks and public beaches blocked by gated developments.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

  • Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images