Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Caring neighbours can help boost home security

A FRIEND who used to thumb his nose at “pigeon-hole dwellers” like me for being saddled with perpetual monthly maintenance fee, was forced to eat humble pie recently. When I visited him a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to see the security outpost at the entrance to his neighbourhood.

Seated behind a small desk under a bright hawker’s umbrella was a lone foreign-looking guard who was catching forty winks when the sound of my car’s engine woke him up.

Instead of being curious and flagging me down, he just smiled and waved me through as if he had known me for ages. Although I was not surprised, having seen one too many untrained guards, I was concerned. So, I asked my friend about the new security feature. He said one break-in too many had made his affluent neighbours jittery.

They decided to engage a security firm to watch over the neighbourhood so that everyone could sleep easy at night or spend the day working without worrying about coming home to a burglarised house.

In return for the peace of mind, each household would have to fork out RM50 monthly for the security service. My friend was tasked with fee collection. Although the move had the support of the majority, my friend faced the same problem as many of us at our condominium. Freeloaders are a dime a dozen and there are those who refuse to pay the nominal fee and give all kinds of excuses.

Those tasked with fee collection, such as my friend, now have a new worry to keep them up at night — how to persuade freeloaders to pay so that everyone can enjoy the peace.

According to my friend, his neighbourhood’s gated community concept may end up being scrapped if the generosity of those who have been faithfully paying runs out.

My friend was wondering if legal action could be taken against the freeloaders. based on the tacit contract formed when the idea of a gated community was hatched. I told him that if he wanted another worry to keep him up at night, he could pursue the matter.

As a condo dweller for over a decade, I have come to realise that even the laws governing mandatory payment of maintenance fees have failed to make freeloaders toe the line — not unless someone can come up with a foolproof way to collect the money owed, the way the tax department collects its dues.

Communities aspiring to live within a gated enclave will do well to consider other alternatives, especially if their neighbourhood is not planned as a gated community right from the start. Apart from having to contend with the freeloaders, they may also incur the wrath of regular users of the public roads they now barricade.

If they do not run foul of the law first, they are also likely to put their lives in danger in an emergency because rescue vehicles will have a tough time will not be able to going through the oil drum barriers.

I think if neighbours start talking to each other more, learn to care and watch out for each other when either one is away, maybe they may not need gated neighbourhoods.

We did it in the ’70s and we called it Rukun Tetangga.

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