By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Many residents and home buyers are concerned with safety and security these days, even in private communities. Unfortunately, a neighborhood of attractive homes and condos is not immune to either property or violent crime.
But did you know that local law enforcement offices seldom patrols association-governed communities? Local police generally only respond to reports of crime or disturbances while in progress or, more often, after the fact.
Even though owners do pay property taxes to support local law enforcement, routine, preventive police patrols are not conducted with the boundaries of private communities, unless the association enters into a separate, paid agreement with their local sheriff’s department. In general, homeowners, condo, and cooperative associations are expected to provide and pay for their own private security and crime prevention measures.
So the level of security varies depending on the physical features of the association, and members’ commitment to crime prevention.
Child abduction attempt in broad daylight
For example, in the Spinnaker Bay neighborhood of Lake Charleston, near West Palm Beach, parents are on edge following an attempted child abduction in the neighborhood. According to reports, this is not an isolated incident. Two similar criminal complaints have been filed, involving nearby neighborhoods.
At the time of the abduction attempt, Lake Charleston Maintenance Association (LCMA) had security cameras aimed at common areas. And Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) had entered into a No Trespassing Agreement (to arrest trespassers on LCMA property) and a separate Traffic Agreement (to ticket illegally parked vehicles in overnight hours), according to information posted on the HOA’s public website.
However, the attempted abduction occurred in the middle of the day.
The location of the incident was not in view of any of the Association’s surveillance cameras. Fortunately, the 10-year-old boy was able to escape the mysterious man in the white van. The homeowner, David Harman, has since installed cameras on his own property, and is petitioning the HOA board to install additional security cameras in other parts of the neighborhood.
The assumption is that the perpetrator does not reside in Spinnaker Bay. However, if the suspect happens to live in Spinnaker Bay or Lake Charleston, security cameras and no trespass agreements with PBSO may be of little use in locating or arresting the alleged criminal.
To get a glimpse of the neighborhood, see this video from WPTV.
Lake Charleston homeowners ask HOA for security cameras in neighborhoods after attempted abductions
The father of a 10-year-old who was almost abducted is asking his community’s HOA board for security cameras around the development.
There are nights when David Harman keeps replaying February 13th in his mind. The day his son was almost abducted.
“There’s no words really, just something that’s always in the back of your mind,” said Harman.
The boy, who we are not identifying says he didn’t notice when the white van pulled up near him on Zurich Circle in the Spinnaker Bay neighborhood. All he remembers was someone grabbing him from behind and covering his eyes.
Read more (Video):
Condo owner attacked in his own home
Some homeowners actively seek out condominium and planned communities with security gates and guards, as well as surveillance cameras. But even with layers of security, violent criminals sometimes manage to enter these private communities.
In Boca Raton, Denis Duddy recently purchased a penthouse unit in Whitehall Condominiums. He chose the condo, in part, because of its multiple layers of security – 24/7 guarded gates, secure access parking garage and lobby.
Yet one night last month, as reported by WPTV, a violent intruder managed to get past guarded gates at Whitehall, entering the parking garage, the lobby, and taking the elevator to Duddy’s penthouse unit, where he then broke down the door in a manic rage. His girlfriend was able to escape and summon help, while Duddy fought off an attack by 18-year-old Michael Ramsay, who happened to be strung out on acid and stark naked at the time.
Duddy is now suing Seacrest Services, the condo association’s management company, who has contracted with a third party security firm, for failing to prevent the brutal attack. A legal analyst interviewed by WPTV thinks Duddy has a strong case against the management company.
A lose-lose situation
So what is an association-governed community to do? Without adequate security, residents may be at increased risk for violent crime. But if the HOA chooses to provide security measures, and charges owners for those additional services, it also opens itself up to liability should any of those security systems fail to prevent a resident from becoming a victim of crime.
This double-bind is the inevitable result of the unwillingness of local governments to provide routine crime prevention services to their taxpayers who reside in common interest, association-governed housing.