Probing the False Sense of Security in Gated Communities

Edward Blakely, co-author of “Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States,” pens an opinion piece for <em>The Washington Post</em> looking at the detrimental psychology that exists in gated communities such as where Trayvon Martin died.
April 9, 2012, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Blakely looks at the ways in which gated communities blur traditional lines of public and private in dangerous ways, which he extends outside the gates to "the nation's ideal of equality among its people."

Based on his extensive research across the country, and the statistics of local police departments, Blakely upends the supposed benefits of gated communities -- that they are more safe and more neighborly than other suburban communities. Aside from reduced rates of car theft, Blakely has found that, "gated communities do not have less crime than the suburbs from which they're walled off." He continues, "For many, the guards at the gate provide an artificial sense of safety. In our surveys of more than 1,000 residents of gated communities, many said they chose to live there because they traveled or worked long hours, so they had no time to meet neighbors and used the guards as their home security system."

For many of the six to nine million Americans living in single-family residences in gated suburban developments, their fortifications may induce the perception that a different set of rules apply inside the walls than outside of them. Furthermore, Blakeley argues that residents of gated communities often perceive those wall as freeing them from the communal responsibility to invest in larger public systems of education, healthcare, infrastructure, fire, and police.

"Barriers erode social stability and civic responsibility. Some make sense to protect special natural habitats, schools and similar places. But in cities and suburbs, we need to share space to make our communities stronger and safer."

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Published on Friday, April 6, 2012 in The Washington Post
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