Building a thriving and livable community depends on ensuring community safety. Unfortunately, safety issues, like crime, affect many communities across California. These issues can have significant negative impacts on the quality of life and well-being of residents within your community. Low levels of community safety can also influence anything from individual safety and property values to economic development and social cohesiveness.
Thankfully, there are simple steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of crime and help your residents feel safe. Regardless of whether you manage an apartment complex, an HOA, a gated community, or some other form of a residential community, these ten tips can help you provide the peace of mind your residents deserve.
1. Provide Community Awareness Training & Education
This is probably one of the easiest ways you can encourage community safety and it works. If your community is unaware of the threat that crime poses, it will be virtually impossible to prevent it from happening. Most cities have programs and strategies in place to help people understand what crime looks like, how it can be prevented, and what to do when crime strikes.
Ask local law enforcement or city officials to give a presentation at a community-wide meeting. This can go over common safety concerns and how to address them. There are often training sessions available on personal safety, home security, emergency preparedness & response, and even self-defense.
Even simply sending out reminders with common sense prevention techniques like locking your doors (even if you only plan on stepping away for a second), not leaving items out in the open in your car, maintaining situational awareness, and presenting yourself with confidence to show you’re not an easy target.
Here are a Few Community Safety Tips for Children
2. Establish A Community Watch
The police aren’t omnipresent. They can’t be everywhere at once, and they can’t have their eyes on every neighborhood at all times. But just because the cops aren’t present doesn’t mean that your community has to be unprotected and left to the whims of criminals.
Community Watch programs are another effective free tool that citizens can implement to help foster community safety. While it’s likely that everyone has seen the community watch warning sign at some point in their lives, many have likely never actively participated in the watch itself.
Getting your community to actively participate in the community watch is a highly effective way to help reduce crime. A recent study from the Department of Justice found that active community watch participation helped reduce crime by 16% when compared to the control group. That’s a significant decrease, and all it takes is a little community involvement and awareness. So if your neighborhood doesn’t have a community watch already, you should get to work creating one and recruiting your neighbors.
3. Increase Community Safety With Security Guards
While awareness training and neighborhood watch programs are effective ways of engaging residents to come together and build a safer community, there’s only so much that residents can do. If they see suspicious activity or witness a crime in progress, the best they can do is call the police and notify their neighborhood—assuming they have systems in place to do so.
Even once a call is made to the police, it could be more than an hour before officers can respond depending on the severity of the crime. Staffing shortages and other factors have led to increased response times across the country. In San Diego, police response times have increased substantially over the last five years. Even “Priority 1” calls where a serious crime is actively being committed or there is a threat to life, the average police response time in San Diego was 36 minutes! And it takes even longer for less serious crimes or suspected crimes. While we hope response times improve in the future, hiring security guards quickly puts boots on the ground to help secure your community.
Whether you’re an HOA official for a community that wants increased security or a property manager at an apartment complex, well-trained security guards can help protect you, your residents, and your property. They also provide the sense of community safety that you deserve.
4. Increase Your Community’s Lighting And Visibility
Do you remember the old saying, “Nothing good happens after dark”? Well, it’s true. Serious crimes are more likely to be committed at night when there are fewer people out and about. While crime is certainly still happening during daylight hours, darkness provides criminals with the cover they need to confidently commit crimes.
Darkness can also make it more difficult for cameras to get good footage of perps. Having a well-lit community will help make camera footage more useful for security and police.
Most importantly, maintaining a well-lit community will give residents the confidence they deserve when they’re outdoors after dark. No more wondering what or who could be lurking in the shadows.
5. Install Security Cameras
Speaking of security cameras, they’re a great way to improve community safety and ensure residents know they’re being protected. There are several different levels where implementing security cameras makes sense.
For an HOA or gated community, it would make sense for homeowners to have security cameras on their property. This could simply be a “smart doorbell,” or a more robust network of security cameras that cover various angles of the home.
For apartment complexes and other residential areas where installing security cameras is impractical for tenants, CCTV cameras routed to the security guard station are a very logical choice. There doesn’t need to be cameras all over your facility per se, as that might make residents feel as if their privacy is being violated, but strategically placed cameras in stairwells, elevators, and parking garages can add an extra level of security to your premises.
No matter what type of cameras make sense for your community, these devices can help deter criminals from targeting your neighborhood. And if crime does strike, then security cameras can record it and help police catch the perpetrators.
6. Establish A Safe Walk Program
This tip might be more niche, but a safe walk program could improve community safety sentiments. Such programs have become very popular on college campuses where students and university employees feel unsafe walking alone after dark. While it may not be feasible for every community, if you have security guards on the premises, they may be willing to help escort people to or from their vehicles after dark. While this would require security on the premises, it’s a solution that’s worth considering.
7. Encourage Responsible Gun Ownership
There are more than four million Californians who own a firearm and an additional three million Californians who live in a household with firearms. Gun owners in California own a combined twenty million guns. That’s nearly 25% of all adults in the state.
So unless your community has specifically banned gun ownership on the premises, it’s likely that some gun owners are living among you. However you feel about gun ownership aside, we can all agree that responsible gun ownership is going to lead to much higher levels of community safety for everyone living in your neighborhood.
Encourage gun owners in your community to ensure their guns are securely stored in a lockbox where they cannot be stolen. Remind them it’s also a best practice to ensure that their ammunition is stored in a fireproof safe. This will make it less likely for bullets to explode during a house fire—eliminating one potential danger to first responders.
8. Address Homelessness In Your Community
Homelessness is a serious problem in California, and the number of homeless individuals has been on the rise for several years. This is causing some serious anxiety for Californians who fear they are less safe in neighborhoods due to the growing concentrations of encampments and unsheltered homeless individuals.
And these concerns are warranted. In 2019, data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed that 51% of the unhoused suffered from mental illnesses, and 46% were abusing drugs and alcohol. With data largely backing public sentiment, it makes perfect sense that increased homeless populations are directly linked to lower levels of perceived community safety.
Hiring security guards to patrol your apartment complex, HOA, gated community, or other residential community can help mitigate any issues caused by transients who could pose a threat to your residents. Not only can they stop such individuals from entering the property, or remove them if necessary, but they’ll reinforce the sense of community safety that your residents deserve.
9. Encourage Community Members To Take Ownership Of Their Community
When people feel more connected to their neighbors and their community as a whole, they’re more likely to watch out for one another and be active in solving issues that negatively impact community safety.
By fostering strong community bonds, residents will feel more inclined to collaborate and communicate with their neighbors. When a community is tight-knit and vigilant, criminals may be less likely to target them. Should someone in the area be a victim of crime, a strong community will be looking out for their neighbors and be more likely to report anything they saw to security or law enforcement.
10. Report Public Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is another big problem in our state. The issue has become so detrimental to our communities that even residents of other states have noticed. Public drug abuse is a major contributor to the degradation of community safety sentiments across the state. Nobody feels safe having to worry about walking around individuals high out of their minds. And if you have to watch where you step to ensure you’re not stepping on needles, which is an unfortunate California stereotype, it leaves people nervous.
While solving this issue at the state level is largely out of our control, we can take measures to protect our communities from the dangers of public substance abuse. If you see it, report it. It’s that simple. Call security or law enforcement and allow them to deal with the issue. You might not be able to completely change the issue, but you can keep it from impacting community safety.
Take Steps To Improve Community Safety For Your Residents
While all of these steps can help improve the overall level of safety within your community, not all of these tips are going to have the same impact. While programs encouraging community awareness and neighborhood watch programs will certainly help reduce the likelihood of crime—or at least inform residents of what to do when a crime occurs—it will still take a long time for police to arrive on the scene.
However, having an active security guard presence can dramatically increase both perceived and realized community safety. Having highly-trained guards on the premises at all times will not only deter criminals from acting, but they can give your community the protection that it needs.
If you want to truly improve community safety in your apartment complex, HOA, or high-rise building, ASAP Security is ready to work with you and implement an action plan.
Contact ASAP Security today to learn how we can help protect your community.