Pic credit: Security staff at Steyn City in Midrand
WORDS: KIM MAXWELL :: PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Home and personal security awareness has always been an area where SA is streaks ahead. Compared with other nations, South Africans are generally cognisant of the need to incorporate quality security measures into daily life, and more clued up about home security options on offer. We have learnt that a good lifestyle is achievable if we take a few precautions. Recent statistics for 2019 from the South African Police Service recorded 2-million cases of crime in the country, including 22,431 cases of robbery at residential premises. One encouraging sign was that property-related crimes dropped by 2.5% from 2018. Developers report that quality home security is the most common requirement for every buyer demographic, whether they are first-time apartment buyers in urban complexes, families looking for a suburban lifestyle estate or retirees scaling down. In newer apartments or estate home developments, some form of access control, 24- hour security and perimeter monitoring are a given.
SECURE VS SUBURBS
“The common denominator may be similar: the fight against crime. But the scenarios in secured communities and in open suburbs are markedly different,” says Acquired MD Pieter van der Linde. “Suburbs are limited as to the type of access control being utilised, power restrictions and community adherence to the prescribed rules – factors that do not hinder secure estates. These principles ensure that estate living offers a higher level of security than that experienced in residential suburbs, gated or not.” Acquired oversees the security at many of Balwin Properties’ developments. Van der Linde says Balwin’s security solutions are based on proven systems installed in various suburbs but, although suburbs and estates share common guiding principles towards security, estates offer “added layers”. At Balwin these include dedicated automatic registration plate recognition cameras for vehicles linked to the access control system so that front and rear car views and time logs are kept. Apps relay information on suspicious vehicles to on-site security to ensure effective and efficient responses. Visitors receive a unique code that is time- and date-enabled to allow a single entry and exit. Residents are also notified of the arrival and departure of a visitor. In addition, there is scanning of driver’s and vehicle licences “close the circle on entry” to the estate.
According to Van der Linde, Balwin’s residential developments The Polofields Waterfall and Kikuyu Waterfall, both in Waterfall City, are particularly well placed to benefit from enhanced security. “Waterfall City has an integrated security plan for the estates being developed as well as those already completed. The difference here in this smart city is that security does not cease or begin with the entrance to any estate development or to Waterfall City itself. Their systems are intertwined to ensure a secure environment for residents, workers and visitors.” Relevant security information can be shared between various private estate gatehouses and security personnel located within Waterfall City to enable faster responses. “The starting point for Steyn City’s security system is the understanding that security is first and foremost in buyers’ minds,” says Steyn City marketing and events group head Zoe van Onselen. “Although they are attracted to the outstanding facilities, their primary concern is the freedom and peace of mind that comes with a secure lifestyle.” Steyn City’s 810ha of parkland gives residents sufficient room to maintain their own personal space while still living in a community. Plentiful outdoor facilities for exercise and recreation are key. Communal facilities are well lit at night too, so residents can use them after work.
“As crime contributes to the stress experienced by many South Africans, security becomes more and more important. That said, no one wants to feel as though they’re living inside a prison,” Van Onselen says. “Residents should know their families are safe – a special concern for business-people who travel frequently – but visible security measures detract from that peace of mind developers are trying to promote.” For this reason, most of Steyn City’s measures are hidden from view. In addition to a security nerve centre manned by a 24-hour patrol, 500 cameras are placed around the perimeter wall. These, along with thermal infrared technology, detect intruders coming within a certain distance of the perimeter. An audio feed also warns trespassers automatically that the area is under video surveillance and that they are being filmed. Aside from technology designed for facial recognition and vehicle registration, Steyn City has a task force of 140 trained, discreetly armed personnel and a dog patrol unit. Van Onselen says the estate also has roaming “bobbies on the beat” to assist residents with requests, from carrying heavy loads to locating lost pets. They are often the first link for residents needing security assistance too.
The estate layout of 237 private homes at Arabella Country Estate outside Kleinmond in the Western Cape is designed with a similar objective. “In an age when home security has become the norm, the chance to live in an environment that doesn’t look like Fort Knox but offers complete security is becoming more of a need than a luxury for most people,” says estate manager Dirk Uys. Arabella’s security system includes biometric fingerprint readers for homeowners and staff, the scanning of driver’s licences and vehicle licences, and various perimeter security measures. Homeowners have access to trails, footpaths, the lagoon and common areas on the estate, and for an annual green fee they can also use all the hotel and golf facilities. “In SA, security remains the single most important aspect when choosing to buy in a lifestyle estate. For this reason, estate homes tend to enjoy higher capital appreciation than general suburban homes,” says Sitari Country Estate property sales executive director Claudius Combrinck.
Every estate developer sees the value of investing heavily in security measures. “Mzuri, a new development in Somerset West, will install the latest-generation technology to ensure residents feel secure. This will include access control, monitoring and manned security at estate entrances. There will also be electric fencing and thermal cameras,” says Pam Golding Properties Helderberg area manager Louise Varga.
“All access will be controlled by biometrics and security will be managed on and off site. Each home will have an intercom system linked to the control room to ensure rapid response.” Multi Spectrum Property’s recently launched Bonsai Estate occupies a prime pocket of land in Langeberg Ridge in Durbanville. “Being situated in a built-up suburb, it offers less risk for homeowners because communities tend to be watchful of their neighbourhoods,” says project liaison manager Werner Scheffer. “However, SA’s crime rate remains a significant aspect when buying any new home. To that end, Bonsai Estate will provide residents with typical estate security measures that include a secure electrified perimeter and manned 24-hour access control.”
THE POPI EFFECT
Secure complexes and estates do however have a responsibility to be professional in how they use personal information supplied by visitors. Commenting on what may happen when the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act comes into effect, Pam Golding Properties head of training Lanice Steward says that, as buyers pay a premium to live in a secure estate, there is an obligation to enforce high standards of security protocols. “In the case of an estate, the trustees, elected by the body corporate, will be part of the decision-making process to decide those protocols. This will protect property values: if an estate gets a reputation for poor security, it would have an impact on values.” Arabella is the first member of the Association of Residential Communities in SA to receive its PoPI compliance certification, which deals with how personal information is processed and stored. “The purpose of the PoPI Act is to ensure that all South African institutions conduct themselves in a responsible manner when collecting, processing, storing and sharing another entity’s personal information by holding them accountable should they abuse or compromise anybody’s personal information in any way,” says Uys. “We are very pleased to have our compliance certification. This is just another step we are taking to show our stakeholders how much we value their privacy and our own.”
How are estates adjusting to accommodate current health security issues in the face of Covid-19? Uys says Arabella’s working group opted to take action before problems got out of hand by implementing protocols including distribution of awareness posters at strategic estate points, communicating hygiene protocols to homeowners and staff, the installation of hand sanitisers at strategic points such as turnstile access and offering alcohol swabs for biometric reader use in resident lanes. The estate’s layout is particularly suited to social distancing. “The homes at Arabella Country Estate are all freestanding, allowing for separation of neighbours. We are fortunate to have space and fresh air at Arabella. Being outside of the hustle and bustle of a busy town or city, the estate allows people to appreciate nature and still practise social distancing without feeling isolated.” Balwin Properties PR manager Lisa Sinclair emphasises that health security measures around Covid-19 are crucial. “The managing agents at all our sites, with Balwin’s assistance, are implementing the recommended restrictions to ensure that all government protocols and procedures are in place and adhered to,” she says. Flexibility is key with any security systems. “The Balwin blueprint for security is ever-evolving, and at all times back-up processes are in place to mitigate any potential risk factors,” says The Polofields Waterfall in Waterfall City, by Balwin Properties Van der Linde.
“The starting point for Steyn City’s security system is the understanding that security is first and foremost in buyers’ minds” Zoe van Onselen, marketing and events group head, Steyn City