Gated Communities and Their Implications

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By Mariam Mokhtar

Gated Community - security postThe recent proliferation of gated communities in Malaysia, not just Perak, raises more questions than answers. The sight of a single entry-point to the cluster of homes, of being “screened” by security guards, of identity cards being left at the check-point, of being monitored by closed-circuit television cameras as one drives through the compound, all serve to reflect the type of society we live in.

Those who approve of gated communities say that the people who live in high-security enclaves are driven by a fear of crime. These residents claim that the resources given to the police are limited and so they feel justified in paying for security guards, cameras and other security features to protect their families, their homes and their property.

Detractors argue that only the rich are privileged enough to afford this type of community living. The culture of the “haves” and the “have-nots” will ultimately give rise to a feeling of envy and resentment. Communities will become segregated and cause further social disintegration.

The government has always advocated a mixed, multi-racial society, so if this trend of gated communities is allowed to prosper unchecked, won’t this result in a socially fragmented community and threaten the fabric of our peaceful co-existence?

Shouldn’t the relevant housing bodies, like the property developers or chartered surveyors, in the state have a debate on possible issues that may arise? Problems of social cohesion and integration should be nipped in the bud before they escalate out of control.

Sense of Security

Those who live within the confines of a gated community may feel safe and lead a life which is totally different from their work colleagues or their friends and family. People say life in a gated community is secure and that these neighbourhoods are relatively quiet and litter-free. However, what does this say about you and your community?

A person who has lived in a gated community, for seven years said: “Once I go past the guards, I feel safe. I don’t have to try and make friends or get to know my neighbours. I admit that I do not have to make the effort to know other people who live around me.”

“All this is unlike my previous residence. I needed my neighbour’s help to keep an eye on the house, if I was away. She made sure the letterbox was not crammed with letters, thus alerting thieves of my absence. In a sense, I miss that neighbourly spirit.”

Another person said that he lived in gated communities because it was easier to screen unwanted visitors: “I was burgled twice before. My paranoia with crime starts there. A stranger tricked his way into the house by telling the maid he was sent to fix the plumbing. She was tied-up and the house ransacked.”

Less Social Integration

So does living in a gated community mean that you are an insular person who is not prepared to mix with the people outside of your gates?

When only the wealthy pool together to provide better security for themselves, in gated communities, it is another breakdown in social integration.

Are the people who are prepared to pay for extra security, helping or hindering the rest of society in terms of law and order?

Improve Policing

Many claim that the police are not able to provide an immediate response to crime, or that their services are stretched because of a lack of resources. They say that gated communities lighten the burden on the police.

Isn’t this wrong? Shouldn’t we collectively demand that our parliamentarians supply our police with adequate money and manpower to protect the public?

Asking for an improvement in standards of policing should not be the preserve of the poor. The viewpoint of the rich should also be taken into consideration. Why should they be excluded?

Although gated communities are perceived to be secure, a few people have complained that criminals are not deterred. On the contrary, gated communities help advertise to the criminal world, that there is something worth taking from the homes behind the gates.

Others have wondered about the influence of gated communities on child development. When families are cocooned from the outside world, what level of engagement and interaction is the child able to have? Are his friends able to visit freely and can they learn to be street-smart rather than grow up ignorant of the ways of the world.

Children may moan about the isolation but the parents find that the peace of mind that gated communities provide, is just as important as the flaunting of wealth.

Living in a gated community may be a personal choice, but on the whole is a bad one for society.