Education, awareness, and cooperation between management, boards, and residents can make a huge difference in deterring crime in and around a building. Some basic behavioral adjustments – making sure nobody follows you into the building without a key, or not buzzing in any unknown or unexpected visitors, for example – seem like common sense, but a community that educates itself on the how and why of certain safety measures has a better chance of enforcing them once they know the reason behind them. Taking mutual interest and joint responsibility in keeping a building safe will go a long way in maintaining the kind of culture that discourages intruders and perpetrators without making residents feel like they’re living in Fort Knox.
Roles to Play, Measures to Take
When it comes down to it, building safety is a shared responsibility even in terms of legal obligations. Dr. Mark Lerner, President of New York-based EPIC Security Corp., says that outside of basic mandates for an intercom and front door locking system, buildings are not responsible for fulfilling any specific security requirements. However, “In terms of liability, if something occurs and it is found that the board or residents were aware of avoidable high-risk factors, if there’s a history of stuff happening, then a building could face civil action.”
Board, management, and residents have a mutual stake in making sure a building is doing everything it can to deter crime, but in most cases, the board and manager will shoulder the burden of finding the right security firm with which to work. “Most times, it is a combination of the property manager, the board and the board president,” says John McGee, Vice President at Cambridge Security Services, which has offices in Miami, Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.
Larger communities may even have a security committee that can make recommendations for the board, adds Matthew Schwartz, Regional Vice President of ABM Security Services in Orlando. The security committee is beneficial in terms of reviewing and analyzing security issues for the community but ultimately the final vendor decision should be made by the board and property manager, he says.
According to Alon Alexander, President of New York City-based security firm Kent Services, “The board should be aware of security issues within the building, as well as the surrounding areas. They should take precautions when certain types of events are occurring in the area, such as a 4th of July fireworks display or a block party. They should arrange for extra staff or security as needed. All building residents should partake in basic security as well, locking their door and making sure ‘tailgaters’ don’t gain entry. If they see someone or something suspicious, they should bring it up to management.”