Homeowner associations have a responsibility to protect the investments of the members. A person's home is typically his largest investment, thus protecting property value should be a main concern of any HOA. Perceptions of personal safety influence current residents' decisions regarding relocation and rank high in perspective buyers' relocation choices.

When the community is faced with real crime, the board should address the issue by asking several fundamental questions:

Has crime increased resident instability?

HOAs can measure resident instability in several ways: residential mobility and owner occupancy. Resident mobility measures the frequency in which residents move in and out, while owner occupancy is a rate assessing the number of resident owners. Combining these two measures provides the board insight about HOA instability.

Has crime affected property values?

Criminal mischief such as graffiti and destruction of property directly reduce the value of the targeted property.

Has crime affected the quality of life within the community?

If crime disenchants HOA members and they believe the board is not addressing the problem adequately, some will withdraw from social activities or focus on crime issues at meetings.

Community Response to Crime. To identify and measure response to crime, four basic questions may be asked:

1.What is the HOA doing to prevent crime? There are several crime prevention strategies that HOAs can implement such as environmental designs (reduce landscape cover, install better lighting, build fences), human capital investments (Neighborhood Watch Program, security guards), and electronic monitoring (cameras), all of which address crime in different ways.

2.How does “perceived”crime influence the HOA's crime prevention efforts? Perceptions of crime do not always relate to the actual amount of crime. And responding to crime does not address the fear of crime. So, it is important to gauge the residents' perceptions to determine whether they approve of the board's response.

3.Is the crime response successful? The board's crime prevention strategy may fail to meet the objectives. For instance, installation of security lights will not affect daytime burglaries. Security guards can't be everywhere at once. Security cameras may capture an intruder's image but the image doesn't identify the intruder.

4.What are the side effects of the crime prevention programs? Some programs can have collateral consequences. For example, gated communities provide a physical barrier to deter crime, however, residents are required to validate themselves and their guests when entering. In this scenario the individual relinquishes certain freedoms for macro-level protections.

Assessing the impact crime has on the community and the board's response to it is a fundamental service all homeowner associations need to address. Security has both elements of perception and protection. The board should integrate both elements when implementing responses to crime.

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