Part of ensuring a safe community includes having a good understanding your Association’s physical layout. A walkthrough is key to devising an effective security plan. There are a few ways you can perform a walkthrough – on your own, through a professional company, or with the help of your local police jurisdiction. Many local police precincts have police liaison programs. These programs include officers being available to give safety talks to Owners and establishing neighborhood watches, and many also offer a safety walkthrough. This will occur at night, and typically you’ll want your Management to attend, as well as Board members or Committee members. You want multiple people to take advantage of this, but not so many that it’s a distracting crowd – I’d say half a dozen at most. You’ll be on your way to conducting your first police safety walkthrough in a Condo Association.
Your police liaison will meet you in the evening and will walk around the property with you. During this walkthrough, they will help you identify areas of concern or interest, examples of which may include:
- Reviews of high-traffic areas where people are coming and going onto the property. Understanding where people are going in and out is a good basis for understanding your property.
- Reviews of lighting – seeing if you have any gaps in lighting coverage which could provide a potential attacker an area to hide. Lighting improvements are often some of the most cost-effective improvements you can invest in.
- Reviews of amenity areas that might pose a liability if abused – for example, do you have proper signage indicating a basketball court is closed after dark? Is your pool secured when closed from people trying to trespass?
- Access controls – are your building’s entrances and exits well-maintained and properly controlled?
- Sight lines – do you have landscaping or other objects which create an opportunity for a potential attacker to hide? If so, you may want to consider trimming them or removing them.
When you do the walkthrough, a lot will seem obvious in retrospect – which is part of why you want to do it. You will have a “duh” moment when you see that a there is a gap in lighting on one of the paths around your building that no one has said anything about for years. Other items may be less obvious – for example, you may notice a hedgerow that while aesthetically pleasing, may provide an ambush point late at night. The great thing is that after a walkthrough, you’ll have a very clear idea of what needs to be done. If you have other Associations adjacent to your building, or if you’re part of a Master Association, you might encourage those neighbors to also do walkthroughs with the police to improve their community safety as well. Everyone can benefit from having a police safety walkthrough in a Condo Association.
If your police liaison doesn’t offer a walkthrough, you have a few options. You can consider hiring professionals or you can try a “do it yourself” approach. When available, I like working with the police as a starting point because they don’t have anything to sell you – they will give the most practical solutions. A security consulting firm, of course, will have a motivation to sell you (often pricey) remedies. The police will be more likely to give you the most cost-effective offer. But the choice is ultimately up to your community – the most important part of conducting a police safety walkthrough in a Condo Association is to ensure you’re actually doing it. Finally, this is something you can do regularly – every two years or so perhaps, or after any major renovation projects that might change the layout of your building. This also keeps safety and security front and center in your Board and Management’s mind, which is a great way to ensure you have a safe Association.