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Letter Re: Private Gated Communities May Not be Gated After All

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I read Brad S.’s letter with interest today. About ten years ago I was working in property management for an apartment community in Lakewood, Washington. Not exactly a low-crime area, to say the least.

One of our selling points was the gates at each entrance of the community. My manager and I took over the property not knowing the sort of people the previous management team had rented to. Over the course of four months, we evicted dozens of tenants for being months behind on rent, among other things. When this process began, we noticed that we received daily complaints about our gates being “busted”.

Turned out disgruntled ne’er do wells whose pass codes had been deleted and locks changed were using their vehicle [bumper]s to push the gates open to get into the community. Because the gates open in the direction the vehicle is going (i.e. in for incoming vehicles and out for outgoing), these was extremely easy for them to do. One (non-criminal) resident actually got brave enough to slip outside one night and get video footage of a vehicle so that we could help the police try to track them down.

We went through thousands and thousands of dollars by the time we just gave up and stopped fixing them. It became a game for the nasties in the area and just wasn’t worth it any more. The police had a heck of a time getting anyone involved in the Neighborhood Watch in the area, but when they finally got mad enough about their rent money not keeping up “security”, people started cracking down on their former neighbors and current neighbors. Yes – current – even some of the punks who didn’t get evicted were still doing it just to infuriate my boss.

Additionally, most of the apartments set up like this will purposely lock the gates open during heavy commute hours (say, 0700-0900 and 1600-1800) just to save on the electric bill and keep lines from forming at the gate. This means that anyone and everyone who happens to notice this on a property can just time their visits appropriately and have full access to your community.

Unless you are the only family on your place with much better gates and a better system, such gates are nothing but a mental barrier to keep honest people honest, as they say, and to instill a sense of security and class in the residents. This doesn’t apply to heavy duty gates, especially those that slide from side to side on a track, vs the kind that open on a hinge with a small motor, of course. But in general, as somebody who got to write up about a hundred repair requests – skip ’em. They aren’t worth it if they are the generic “make you feel special and make your place look fancy” type of gates.

Thanks for all your hard work. – M.K.