SECURITY OF RESIDENTIAL PREMISES DO’S & DONT’S
Urbanisation in India is a 21st Century phenomenon with large number of cities and towns sprawling across the country with 50 cities having a population of above 10 Lakhs. In many cities residential colonies have been developed by government authorities as well as private real estate companies. Residential Security under the circumstances has assumed importance. However increasing cost of land has resulted in growth of urban slums interspersed with these colonies as a large section of lower middle class and urban poor are not able to afford regular housing. A related phenomenon due to large scale migration, unemployment and rising aspirations is increase in crime. Residential areas are easy targets for criminals some of whom have developed expertise for penetrating apartments and condominiums and prey on women and children, senior citizens, raising fear of molestation, thefts, bomb blasts, kidnapping and even violent terrorist activities.
A survey has revealed that most persons who are arrested for crimes against property are male and between 18-21 years old. They frequently live near their target areas and are familiar with the neighborhood. At the same time most property criminals are moderately or poorly motivated. If they perceive a multi-residential community to be well protected, they are deterred and move to what they think is an easier target.
While more and more residential area are gated communities this has not deterred criminals as they are able to exploit security gaps, infiltrate or cultivate persons working in these colonies to advantage thereby gaining a friendly entry and exit to commit crime.
Factors identified above suggest necessity of special security measures for residential premises in India. Some basic Do’s and Don’ts for the same are thus covered as per succeeding paragraphs separately for the following after some common tips:-
• Residential Welfare Associations/Co-operative Housing Societies. • Residents.
Common Tips – Applicable at all Residential Areas
Residents must organize themselves as Resident Welfare Association (RWA) or Cooperative Housing Society (CHS) which should draw up bye laws duly approved in a general body meeting. RWA officer bearers should be elected periodically as per bye laws. Large colonies can be divided into sectors with officials nominated for each sector. Maximum representation should be given to women. RWA should register under the Societies Act to gain legal validity. RWA should encourage resident- to- resident communication through social and cultural events RWA should attempt to develop security culture amongst residents through regular interaction and conduct programmes on crime prevention, safety, fire precautions and, community welfare. RWA should draft security standing orders giving responsibilities of office holders as well as residents. A copy should be prominently displayed at RWA office as well as distributed to each household. RWA should have a security coordination committee headed by an experienced person either an ex-service or ex police personnel. Effective coordination must be carried out with local agencies – municipal/fire brigade/civil defence wardens, chief medical officer and Station House Officer of local police station apart from beat constables. An accepted system of monthly contribution should be instituted for all residents and collection made regularly to ensure that the RWA is self supporting. These funds should be properly accounted for and assistance of Chartered Accountants could be taken where necessary. Annual statement of accounts should be submitted to members and relevant authorities. Repeated burglaries, chain snatching, molestation, abduction or kidnapping, ATM/auto theft, house break-in and robberies implies that the area is vulnerable, thus RWA must warn residents to take additional precautions and ensure enhancement of central security. In highly vulnerable areas or where frequent criminal incidents have been reported, RWA should take expert advice from police or other security agencies. Do’s and Don’ts given below are as much applicable to non gated residential areas as gated ones except that access controls should be organized by roving security guards.
DO’S AND DON’TS’ FOR RWA’S
Information and Advisory
Do keep record of all residents, owners as well as tenants with full particulars with photograph email and mobile/telephone number centrally. A directory could be published periodically for information of all members.
Do regularly share information about criminal and terrorist activities in the neighbourhood with residents through emails, SMS and circulars. Many people may not watch TV news or read newspapers habitually thus word of mouth is best source of information.
Do advice all to be vigilant and aware of suspicious behavior with respect to property, residents and prospective residents.
Do report any suspicious activity and/or serious breach of security to the local police. Encourage residents to report mistrustful activity.
Do install emergency alarm and public address system for use as and when required during emergencies as well as for normal communications respectively.Community Concerns Do address concern of residents who complain about being subjected to harassing behaviour by other residents, hawkers, security or AMC vendor promptly and sympathetically. Do hold periodic RWA meetings to hear grievances / suggestions of residents and sensitize them on security threats and preventive measures. Do organize community functions for members particularly children including sports competitions and get together on public occasions to build cohesiveness and unity. Regulatory Measures Do draft a security Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) with weekly ‘Resident Duty Officer’ and ‘Resident Assistant Duty Officer’ who will supervise security and check all guards and patrols at least twice during day and night and sign security guards’ duty books endorsing their comments if any and the ‘Weekly Performa Report’ presented to the Secretary and the President for their information. Do put up security-related signage indicating that the complex is patrolled by armed officers or guards as the case may be and/or that there is CCTV surveillance cameras located throughout the complex act as a deterrent. Do ensure residential complex is notified as ‘Protected Place’ by the state Government and warning boards displayed prominently along the outer perimeter and near the gates to deter criminals trespassing as that carries mandatory punishment of 3 years or fine or both. Do register in a certified ‘Crime Free Multi-Housing Programme’ organized by the local police and display prominently signs notifying participation in such a programme. Do join in ‘Mutual Aid Schemes’ as a part of ‘Community Neighbourhood Watch Programme’ with adjoining housing /commercial complexes and signage indicating same should be displayed prominently for enhancing security and help during disasters. Do authorize vendors for various services including for provision of shamianas, crockery and so on for public functions. All personnel of such agencies must also be registered and checked before entry. Do ensure that commercial activities conducted in residences conform to those permitted by the municipal authorities and any unauthorized business should be brought to the notice of the administration. Physical Security Do ensure that perimeter of the property is walled or wired with adequate measures to prevent surreptitious entry. Ideally, a multi-residential complex should be completely surrounded by a wall at least 6′ in height grouted with broken glass and having 2’ high barbed wire ‘L’ or ‘Y’ shaped overhang. Do ensure height of gate is as high as the wall and there are anti scaling devices to prevent easy cross over. Do restrict entry and exits. Ideally, there should be only one way in and out of the property which apart from security will also contribute to economy in employment of guards. Do ensure that gates as well as perimeter fencing is well lit. Solar lights are ideal and may entail high initial cost with possibility of subsidy. Do have speed breakers on either side of the gates as well as tyre busters that can be erected in an emergency. Do employ CCTV cameras at the gates and also at other vulnerable points to record all activity with periodic playback on required basis. Do have separate wicket gate for entry and exit of foot visitors and residents. Do clear periphery of bushes, trees and shrubbery that can conceal an intruder as he attempts entry into the colony. Do ensure electric poles are away from the perimeter wall to avoid these being used for entry. Do trim branches of trees outside the perimeter wall which could provide entry to criminals. Control of Access Do ensure that entry /exit gates have fortified posts the guards, have all weather shelters with glass front for 24/7 surveillance. Sentry post should have light, fan and small desk for writing. Security staff should be provided in – out register for outside vehicles /autos /taxis and visitors besides the duty register. Do have intercom facility at the gates and provide all guards with mobile phones for emergency communication. Do ensure that all guards operate in buddy pairs and cater for extra guards at night and inclement weather conditions. Control of Access of Personnel Do issue temporary identity cards to all entrants at the entry point after recording their details including mobile numbers. Do inspect entry and exit record of individuals to identify those who are visiting frequently without specific purpose. Do ensure that all tenants are police verified and no subletting is permitted. Do ensure verification of all personnel regularly entering the premises including house hold employees as servants, maids, drivers, dhobis, vegetable, contract labour, and employees of firms providing Annual Maintenance Contract (AMCs), dependents of servants, hawkers and so on by local police. Issue photo identity cards and maintain a central record of all household employees at the RWA office. Special Security Needs Do have details of any special category personnel who require additional security and notify the police as well as residents accordingly. Do provide special security such as periodic surveillance during night to houses or flats of senior citizens, single women and differently abled. Do ensure discreet watch on empty flats being misused for unauthorized activities. Do keep a record of people moving out for short durations and have the houses locked. Carry out special surveillance of such houses particularly at night to prevent a break-in. Do ensure that ATMs, banks, shopping centre and so on in the complex has dedicated security. Car Parking/ Vehicle Security Do ensure car parking is secure and well lit including underground parking. Do insist residents should park cars in a way as to facilitate early exit in case of an emergency. Do ensure that cars parked inside the drive way or adjacent to residential houses are double locked using secure gear /steering lock. Do issue stickers of the RWA for all vehicles to be affixed from inside to avoid tampering. Do ensure that each vehicle is automatically captured on CCTV installed in such a way and angle to note number plate as well as image of driver. Elevators, Lobbies and Stairways Do ensure that elevators and lobbies are well lit by day and night. Do ensure that hiding places such as stairwells are covered to prevent these being used by criminals as hides. Do equip elevators with both a telephone and alarm or duress buttons connected to the caretaker and an outside central monitoring station. Do have CCTV cameras in elevators particularly for high rise buildings and notify the same accordingly. Security Staff Do ensure that security staff is employed from an authorized agency which is registered under the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005 (PSARA 2005) and all guards are verified and wear agency uniform. Do ensure that the agency delivers mandated service effectively and efficiently as contracted. Do also insist on female security staff at least during day time. Do conduct rehearsals on security and fire fighting from time to time, remember anything that is not checked will fail in an emergency. Do monitor turnover of security staff by the agency which should be done with the approval of the RWA security committee and not carried out at random. Fire Safety Do ensure that high rise building and multi-residential complexes are provided with mandatory fire prevention and fire safety measures as per National Building Code of India 2005 and Fire Safety Certificate Do ensure that firefighting equipment, stairways and lifts for firefighting are serviceable and over/underground water tanks filled and hydrants charged. Do clean up all vegetation around the colony from time to time and particularly post monsoons and during dry season. Do ensure that there is adequate space in the colony roads for entry of fire tenders especially if cars are being parked on driveways. Do ensure that there are water tanks with adequate water and hydrants that are functional. Do conduct periodic fire drills and first aid fire fighting training to all residents. Don’ts
- Do not presume that a theft or security incident will not occur in your colony just because you are adhering to all precautions specified; criminals will find ways and means to exploit weaknesses.
- Do not be complacent about security; take a proactive approach to block all loopholes from time to time through inspections and dummy runs.
- Do not take security violations lightly and consider even smallest infringement with seriousness taking up issues with the police and/or residents from time to time. Every incident of crime that goes unreported or is not investigated properly will only encourage criminals.
- Do not encourage senior citizens, ladies and children to use underground car parking alone or during late night hours.
- Do not allow unauthorized tenants and subletting, have proper checks from time to time.
- Do not encourage smoking in public places; apart from being injurious to health it can cause fire.
- Do not violate privacy of residents particularly women in the garb of security.
- Do not use lifts during a fire emergency.
- Do not permit residents to install large generators in public areas which can cause pollution, noise, obstruct movement and are also a fire hazard.
- Do not permit private functions which disturb other residents and allow entry of unauthorized personnel or large numbers that are beyond the capacity of the security staff to manage apart from being fire hazards. Residents should be encouraged to hold these in halls earmarked by municipal authorities for this purpose outside the premises.
- Do not use sliding panel doors for main or side entrance; these are easy to break in.
- Do not keep valuables including jewelry and cash at home without proper security arrangements and never for a long time particularly when you are going out of town and house is locked.
- Do not conceal knowledge of serious crimes or risk.
- Do not allow grass to grow around your house or ground floor flat which will provide burglars and thieves cover. More over in dry season this can be cause of fire.
- Do not overload the electricity system beyond authorized load factor as it can be a cause for fire apart from frequent tripping. In case necessary get the load enhanced from authorized agency.
- Do not provide set of keys to short term employees as this can be misused at a later date.
- Do not get duplicate keys made by servants or unknown persons and only through authorized locksmiths.
- Do not install separate “doggy doors” or entrances. They also can admit small intruders.
- Do not confront armed thieves and robbers but raise alarm and seek assistance from security.
- Do not offer any temptation to household staff even those employed for long period by leaving valuables and cash outside.
- Do not discuss money related issues in front of household staff even if these are considered very trustworthy.
- Do not allow strangers in the house even if they attempt to indicate that there is an emergency.
- Don’t leave keys “hidden” outside the home, in due course this will be discovered by an interested person. Leave an extra key with a trusted neighbor or colleague.
- Don’t enter if you come home and find a door or window open or signs of forced entry, call the RWA and local police.
- Don’t avoid payment of dues to the RWA for whatever reason, differences can be resolved separately but make sure that RWA has adequate funds for security.
Security of residential areas is a pre-requisite for a safe and peaceful life in cities. While gated communities have improved security, these have not eliminated possibility of thefts, forced entries, incidents of molestation, sexual assaults and so on. However where RWA and residents have been alert colonies have been devoid of such incidents. This has in turn ensured that there is demand for the property and indirectly contributed to value addition. Do’s and Don’ts indicated above are simple measures to be undertaken on a day to day basis in general and should be supplemented by additional instructions by RWAs based on local conditions. Importantly making these a habit will ensure that your colony and house/flat is burglar proof.Authors
Col NN Bhatia (Retd), Industrial Security Consultant Email email@example.com, A 27, Sector 30 NOIDA (UP 201303. and Brig Rahul K Bhonsle (Retd) Director Security Risks Asia. firstname.lastname@example.org., B5 & 6, 4283, Vasant Kunj New Delhi 110070. Issued in public interest and is an advisory of general nature application by individuals be based on local environmental conditions and specific circumstances and no liability incurs on the authors from the same.