Make Gated Communities Secure for Children

A 12-year-old child. Raped by 17 Men. For 7 months. In a Gated Community.

All of us who have read this news would have first tried to hold back tears, or just let them burst out uncontrollably… May have also felt the urge to hold the child and apologise unendingly for building such an ugly world that gave her this unspeakably horrible experience… And tell her with desperation- build hope little one, you will get over this…

After our emotional turmoil is somewhat settled, we adults have the duty – to understand what really happened and how can we prevent it so that NOT ANOTHER CHILD FACES THIS AGAIN!

We can each do what is within our Control. The Parents, the Law Enforcement, Child Welfare Committee etc. are doing their part.

In a Gated Community, A LOT IS IN OUR CONTROL!

In this specific case, we cannot blame the government or the police. It is our gated piece of land where we create the rules, we hire the people, we enforce the security processes and equipments.

In this Post, we share Security Best Practices for Gated Communities so that a SAFE ENVIRONMENT can be built – to the best extent possible. It is not easy but it must be done.

Please do share your suggestions as well!

THIS SPECIFIC CRIME SCENE

The Environment:

A Gated Community of 300+ Apartments. Not fully Occupied, many isolated common areas within the complex. Typical spots used for the crime – Gym, Public Restroom, Corridors on the Gym floor.

Security Equipment:

CCTV Cameras at the Gate (as per media, cameras weren’t installed elsewhere).

The Victim:

School going child.

The Culprits:

Security Guards, Housekeeping Staff.

CRIME FACTS TYPICAL TO GATED COMMUNITIES

  1. Most REPEATED and hard-to-detect crimes in Gated Communities happen against Children. Check this earlier Incident in a Bangalore Gated Community.
  2. Many of these incidents do not come out in public or even to the Police – fearing loss of name for the Residential Property, hence harm to the Property value (we shall stick to facts and not get into judging). In MOST cases the Child does not even know what’s happening to them is wrong, or does not know how to express it to Parents, or is under threat as in this specific case.
  3. Crime is committed in an environment that is UNWATCHED, an environment that the criminal KNOWS WELL and an environment that EMBOLDENS the criminal.

 

FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

Few Residents of the Gated Community who did talk admitted they were stunned by the incident. “I can’t believe this happened here. We live in a gated community with security. What more can we do?” asks a resident incredulously. “We just want to be safe now,” she adds.

Here are the illusions Residents of Gated Communities have:

1)We have Security Guards at the Gate and at many places around the Complex. That is sufficient Security.

2) Security Equipment – e.g., Security Cameras, Biometric Registration of workers etc. – these are good to have but probably an avoidable expense.

3) Our Apartment complex is still not fully Occupied, we will invest in necessary Security Equipments once it gets fully occupied.

This specific Crime Incident – where SECURITY GUARDS THEMSELVES WERE THE CULPRITS, completely puts Illusion #1 to its reality.

SOLUTION

To make a Gated Community truly Secure, 3 Elements must work together.

  1. Security Hardware
  2. Security Processes
  3. People – Security Agency, Managing Committee of Association, Residents

SECURITY HARDWARE

1) Install CCTV Cameras at all relevant points within the community. At a minimum cover all the relatively ISOLATED areas. Here are some of the isolated areas most prone to possible crime:Inside Elevators (Children are often alone with delivery boys, workers etc.)

  • Terraces
  • Play Areas
  • 360 degrees of the Gate area
  • Swimming Pool (this is often objected to, but the benefits override the objections)
  • Gym
  • Outside Public Restrooms
  • Store Rooms

Keep dedicated Personnel for watching the CCTV Feeds round the clock.

2) Install Biometric Registration and Attendance Device for all Workers who go in and out of the Gates regularly.

Every Worker – Housekeeping personnel, Security Agency, Gardeners, Manager, Maids, Cooks, Nannies must get registered with their Biometric as well as Govt ID detail.

This acts as strong pre-emptive measure – gives all Workers the immediate message that this is Highly Secured Environment that has all their Vital Identification. Attempting any crime here can be fatal.  

Use the Biometric Device to track In/Out movement of all Workers. This eliminates the coalition between Security Guards and any Workers to fudge records.

3) Install a PC or a Tablet at the Gate to capture all Visitor Entries and Exits.

Give Visibility of the Visitor Entry and Exits to the Security Agency Head Quarters so they can detect anomalies. Also, to the Manager and Managing Committee of the Association.

Crime committed by Occasional Visitors are rare. However for regular Visitors like Delivery Personnel, Service Personnel etc. Entry, Exit and Duration of visit must be closely Monitored.

4) Give a Mobile Device to Patrolling guard to report Incidents.

Typically Incidents (e.g., syringes found near playground) are verbally conveyed to the Educated Security Supervisor who visits in the evening and writes an Incident Report.

If the Patrolling Guard has a Mobile Phone with which the picture of the incident can be clicked and a voice message can be recorded describing the Incident then and there, MORE INCIDENTS CAN GET REPORTED.

SECURITY PROCESSES

Process for CCTV Surveillance

  1. Insist on the Builder to place necessary CCTV Cameras even before the first Family moves in. Typically Apartment Buyers do not pay attention to these common area security aspects during the purchase process.

  Security is most critical in the initial months of Occupancy when the Gated Community is NOT FULLY OCCUPIED leaving      many isolated areas and inflow of many Interior workers.

2. Conduct Audits by the CCTV provider or Expert Security Agency to understand where the Cameras must be placed. Revisit the placement once a year to understand evolved needs.

3. Review the Stored CCTV footage at frequent intervals to catch issues of Hard Disk crash and other faults that happen. Place pre-emptive measures and train CCTV viewing personnel to catch those faults. E.g., a red dot on the screen shows recording is going on. Absence of it means recording has stopped just the feed is being shown live. The CCTV PC / Hard disk must be inspected and fixed immediately.

Process for registering Workers

  1. On the first day of Work of a new Worker -e.g., a new Security Guard from the agency, he must be registered at the Association office with his Govt ID Card, and Biometric Fingerprint. The Gated Community is the Employer and each Employer is entitled to store necessary Identification details of its Employee.

Registration of such Workers should not be left to the Guards at the Gate. It should be done by the Manager or the Managing Committee Members.

In any case, the Managing Committee must have a report of all the New Worker registrations done.

2. When a Domestic Staff – e.g., Maid/Cook starts working, the same registration process should be followed.

Each Flat then must inform the Association Office that the particular Maid/Cook is working with them.

Blacklisting process can be put in place by the Association Office. In this specific case, some Security Workers were already known to misbehave with women. If there is a blacklisting process – based on repeated complaints rather than an isolated incident –  such issues can be corrected.

To know how Software can help implement these processes Click Here

Process for Visitor Entry/Exit/Stay Duration monitoring

Visitors Entry, Exit must be recorded diligently with accurate information. Their Stay Duration must be monitored – this is one of the top priorities of the Security Guards.

Visitor logs are good for after-the-crime, but Visitor monitoring is important to PREVENT THE CRIME.

A process must be in place to ensure a Visitor is not allowed to Visit a Flat where only a Child is home alone. If the voice over the Intercom is that of a child who says there is no adult at home, the Guard must call the mobile number of the Adult to check if the visitor must be allowed. If necessary personally accompany the Visitor till the door and back (typically delivery boys)

If a Delivery Boy is inside the Community for more than 1 hour, the Guards must look for the Delivery Boy / Call them and enquire.

If a Service Personnel is inside a Flat for more than 3 hours, the Guards must call the Flat and enquire.

To know how Software can help implement these processes Click Here: Software to Make Gated Communities Secure for Children

PEOPLE

Last and MOST IMPORTANT are the people involved.

Security Agency and Guards

  1. Choose an Agency that has the necessary Certifications. Every Private Security Agency must have the Security License under Private Security Agencies (Regulations) Act, 2005.
  1. Bring Pride to their Work. This is often ignored. Security Guards are typically immigrants disconnected from their homes and families. They must be oriented to have pride in their work. The Managing Committee must METICULOUSLY plan recognition events for Security Guards. Let them know how important their work is and how good work is appreciated. 15-August, 26-January are the best opportunities to showcase their work and honour them.
  1. Insist on necessary Uniform, Training and Equipments. Do not allow Guards to work continuous shifts which reduce their alertness.

Managing Committee of the Association

  1. Form a dedicated Security Subcommittee. This is the Team that must ENFORCE the processes. Ensure Women are part of this Subcommittee.
  1. During every Meeting of Residents, keep a mandatory slot to go over the Security Processes of your community. Urge them to involve actively.
  1. At least once a month PHYSICALLY SIT at the Security Gate and observe the processes.
  1. Constantly build an environment of trust among Residents so that they do not ignore anomalies. E.g., if in this case some residents did notice an anomaly of the little girl talking often to these workers, they may have not reported thinking why should i meddle in another house’ business.
  1. Conduct frequent sessions for Children & Teenagers in the community reg Good Touch Bad Touch, reporting Harassment etc. These sessions must become as commonplace as Karate classes in gated communities.

Residents

Regardless of all the above, it is the responsibility of every Resident to take responsibility of their own and their Neighbour’s security.

  1. Be Alert. Report any anomaly you notice. Practice discretion as needed – not every reporting should happen on the open forum. Use direct reporting to the Association office whenever required.
  1. Make sure to inform Association Office whenever a new Domestic Staff works in your Apartment. They can inform you in case any anomalies are noticed around this person.
  1. Volunteer in the Managing Committee / Security SubCommittee or to conduct relevant sessions related to Security.

Remember, it takes a Village to raise a Child. Your Gated Community is that Village. Build a beautiful and safe Village.

Do you have others ideas to make Gated Communities truly Secure for Children. Please do share!

Please share this with your Gated Community. May every Child have a Secure and Happy childhood!

 

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About the Author: San Banerjee

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