NBC2 Crime Tracker:

Are gated communities safer?


Article Courtesy of NBC-2.com
Published November 14, 2006

VIDEO: NBC2 Crime Tracker: Are gated communities safer?

LEE COUNTY: Are gated communities any safer than non gated communities? Gates offer residents increased property value, the feeling of an exclusive lifestyle and added security, but how secure are they when guards let you in with the wave of a hand?

In Collier County the Quail West community is home to multi-million dollar homes, but not multi-million dollar security.

NBC2 pulled up to the resident side of the main entrance. Automatically, the guard opened the gate.

We spoke with a resident at random and told them what happened.

David Sutta: We're doing a story about gated communities in Southwest Florida and if you can just walk right in - and we just did.
Grace Martin, Quail West resident: That's impossible. I mean it should be impossible.

We attempted the impossible down the road at Audubon, another exclusive community nestled in North Naples. This time we waved at the guard and had the same result.

Sutta: What if I told you I got through your gate just by waving?
Donald Feiman, Audubon resident: That's not good.
Sutta: What if I told you that a security guard just drove right by me and I just waved at him?
Feiman: Two no goods.

We did the same thing in Lee County at Spanish Wells and at Hunters Ridge.

In Punta Gorda, we waved and got into Emerald Point.

"Surprises me because they are very strict about who they let in. You must look like someone else who lives here," said Margareta Driscoll, Emerald Point resident.

In Port Charlotte, we had to wave a little more than usual, but the guard let us in to the Maple Leaf community.

In all of the gated communities we attempted to drive through, we were successful. But that's just the beginning. We didn't select these sites randomly. These gated communities have some of the highest risk for crime in Southwest Florida.

NBC2 paid for crime risk reports from a company called CAP Index. They use color coded maps to analyze risk for a majority of the Fortune 100 companies. We used them to rate risk in our community.

"We're trying to measure the level of social disorganization and by doing that we're looking at approximately 30 to 35 demographics variables," said Jon Groussman of CAP Index.

Using census data like renters versus owners, levels of income and education, CAP Index assigns a number to a parcel of land. One is the lowest risk, 2000 means you in the crime capital of the world.

If you live within one to three miles of a high risk area, you can expect your number to rise because crime travels.

Risk in the elaborate Quail West community is so high because it sits near a high risk area. Of the 13 random sites in Collier County we looked at, Quail West came in first in risk for burglary, larceny and aggravated assault. It's overall score is 296, meaning you are three times as likely to be a victim of crime in Quail West than any other address in Collier County.

Audubon came in second for burglaries and larceny.

In Lee County we sampled 21 random sites. Hunters Ridge placed in five of six crime categories, including first for murder with a score of 991. That's nine times the county average, even though in all of 2006, no murders occurred there.

Down the road, Spanish Wells placed fourth for burglary and motor vehicle theft.

In Charlotte County, out of nine randomly chosen sites, Emerald Point placed at the top of almost every category including a score of 402 for risk of rape.

The CAP Index charts do not take into account if a community is gated. In fact, gates should bring the risk down.

But every time we drove in without being stopped by a guard, the risk went back up.

"You can put in security measures, that are significant, that are just like the US Embassy. The bottom line is if they are not in essence executing the policies and procedures you have in place, it's useless," said Groussman.

Your community may not even know, unless it's put to the test.

"If you came right through, they just waved you by, that's not what we pay for - at all," said Bruce Wismann, resident of Spanish Wells.

If you live in a gated community, the best thing to do is make sure you understand the security policy. Are guards supposed to patrol the neighborhood? What are the rules for letting people into your community?

Knowledge is the first step toward being prepared.