I was having a glass of wine with friends and we got into a lively debate about living in a gated vs. non-gated community. My friend made the comment; “we will all be living in gated communities soon".

But, in reality we have lived in gated communities from the start of organized mankind. There was a time in the long ago past of the human race when we lived in secure private communities. They were called caves. They were surrounded by large stonewalls, and the only access to them was through a single narrow opening.

This concept of living served us for a very, very long time, and there is no doubt that deep inside the collective memories of our species, there is a longing to return to that warm fuzzy feeling of the cave. You knew that there was much unknown, and great danger outside, but inside you were free to live, enjoy the company of people who were pretty much just like you, and raise your kids safely. As time went on, and the population continued to increase, we began to build the first cities, with thick stonewalls, and gates to control entry.

In recent time, the need for housing, and the increased crowding and crime associated with inner cities led to the creation of suburbs. These sprawling bedroom communities became the new population center, and at first, the residents felt a strong sense of safety there. The suburban communities also provided the shared amenities that had marked the cities. Schools and markets were close. Recreational facilities were close. Crime was far away. As our population became wealthier and new communities sprouted up, gated housing became available to the middle classes.

Many people think that there are strong benefits to raising a family inside a gated community. Some who live in gated areas say they feel more secure or are not afraid to be home alone or leave their kids alone in the communities. Often, people who live in the gated neighborhoods feel a sense of safety that they don’t think they would feel in a non-gated community.

But some proponents believe gated communities are more of a marketing tool and fad than true benefit or purpose.

For example, in communities with unmanned gates, codes to get into the gates are given to many people who don’t live within the community but visit frequently. Often, friends who don’t live inside the gated community can become irritated with having to remember the code or contacting you for the digits each time they visit. “Outsiders” who get the code not only include friends but also food delivery persons or other individuals providing services to people living inside the gates.

Think about all the contractors, landscapers, house cleaners, dog walkers, pest control providers, etc. who enter on a normal basis and consider the level of security coded gates truly provide.

In communities with a guarded gate, the concerns are how good the actual security is. This is solely based upon the person at the gate who is likely being paid a fairly low wage. So, the argument becomes whether that individual would really be willing to go to great lengths to enforce the internal rules of the community.

Despite the statistics showing no significant decrease in crime in gated communities over time, the number of these communities continues to grow. While research shows that the “old school” neighborhood watch programs prove to reduce crime if properly run by the community, often these are forgone in a gated community due to the sense of security from the gates and walls alone.

Whether living in a gated or non-gated community, homeowners should always rely on providing their own safety and security first. Locking doors and windows and keeping the garage shut are the most basic forms of safety and other home safety devices or home security alarm systems can always be installed for added measures.

At the end of the day, living in a gated or non-gated community really just comes down to personal preference. I live in a guard-gated community and I feel safer here. I know if someone gains access on foot, it is difficult to get away with a TV or loot. Someone would notice.