The number one concern of individuals and families seeking a new home or apartment is security. Yet, only a small percentage of residents and potential owners understand what to look for to make an informed decision. The most secure communities are gated communities with around the clock guards offering residents total controlled access. However, for most renters, living in a gated community with full time security is not an option. The question therefore for most apartment hunters is what are the alternatives when it comes to security? Put another way, what does a safe community look like?
First of all, crime can and does occur in nearly any neighborhood. However, measures can be taken, some quite simple, which can reduce the potential significantly. Crime and the potential for crime varies significantly within even the best of neighborhoods, and is influenced by many factors including deterrent measures that can be taken by the landlord and resident. In this case study, we review the pro-active measures taken by residents and one specific landlord to create an environment to deter crime.
Property-Wide Surveillance Security Systems
The most common mistake that renters make is that each community takes the same deterrent measures to protect the residents from either physical injury or loss of property; nothing could be further from the truth. An example of one of the first property-wide surveillance systems installed in an existing apartment building was just completed at the Park Place One Apartments in Northeast Philadelphia by Fidelity Management Corporation. The community spans 5 acres, and is bisected by a stream and wooded preserve. The community consists of four city blocks and six non-connected buildings with a pool, community center, and multiple parking lots. The management company and owner decided to create a surveillance system as part of their commitment to the well being, the peace of mind of their residents, along with a company-wide commitment to advancing customer satisfaction. They set out to build to the best engineered state of the art system they could, and have accomplished just that.
The system operates with 32 camera lenses simultaneously recording live images in high-definition (HD) (high resolution quality). Images are received and transmitted through hard-wired optical cables versus wireless, and all wires are encased on hard conduit. The system allows residents to access the footage from their smart phones. Multiple people can seamlessly view the transmitted images simultaneously and nearly instantaneously. There is no other security system that exists for an apartment community that is as comprehensive and dynamic as the system at Park Place One Apartments.
Upon entering the community on foot or by car at each entrance, you are immediately and repeatedly notified that the property is monitored by a surveillance system through eye level custom signage. The cameras themselves are not obtrusive, yet are easily identifiable. The system is comparable to those found in airports and high end commercial properties. Park Place One’s surveillance system has been met with such overwhelming enthusiasm by the residents that ownership/management have already began installation of a nearly identical system at the other apartment buildings.
Other measures that enhance safety taken by this management company include:
- Retro-fitted entire exterior and interior property lighting with higher energy efficient and an increased lumen lighting system.
- Changed the locks to every apartment door between residents (along with the use of dead bolt vs. key and knob locks); most owners don’t have such a policy. No one should have to assume that the previous resident didn’t have a criminal past.
- Management has also retrofitted all interior and exterior lighting to come on and go off by photo cell, thereby eliminating the problem of not having adequate lights during early morning and late night hours.
- Automatic door closures and self-locking exterior doors, which prevents access to the common hallways without a key.
- Installed an intercom system that allows the resident to verify the identity of anyone seeking access to the buildings common hallway.
- Instituted a policy where mail box names are installed purposely omitting first names and without reference to gender.
- All of Management’s maintenance staff wears bright uniforms embroidered with their company logo clearly identifying the individual as an employee.
- Management provides notices to each resident with the name of all outside authorized vendors that may ask for access to their apartment in advance. Residents are encouraged to call the office to confirm the identity of any person requesting access to their apartment.
- Posted signs and enforces a no solicitation and no trespassing policy by unauthorized visitors.
- Maintains copies of all apartment keys, but does not grant access to anyone’s apartment without first calling the resident, or reviewing proof of identity in the case of an unfamiliar resident.
- Installed “window bar locks” which consists of a singular light weight folding bar that easily lowers in place from a vertical position to prevent a window lock from being lifted off its latch.
A lot of consideration should go into the selection of a new residence, none more important than safety. When shopping for a new residence (in any neighborhood) compare them to the measures taken by the above Management Company and owner, and ask yourself what safety steps and features are in place in each of the communities you are considering to call home.
***Park Place One Apartments were voted the 5th highest in customer satisfaction out of 55,000 residential communities by J. Turner Research Company on behalf of MFE (Multi-Family Executive) Magazine.