Why use a professional security consultant … or not?
by SecurityNet Security Consultants
Here are some inputs for a condominium HOA board to think about when considering professional consultation. While the hard cash costs are relatively easy to determine the soft savings of expert prevention are much harder to ascertain. Even so, don’t forget that “a stitch in time can sometimes save nine” or sometimes a lot more.
Why not “do it yourself”
To save money, or from not knowing a cost-responsible alternative, many boards undertake on their own or ask local law enforcement for a walk-through assessment. This is a rational step and may be helpful, especially for a smaller HOA.
Unfortunately, typical homeowners or board members — and perhaps also law enforcement officers whose focus tends to be on solving crimes rather than preventing them — often have either limited background or limited time. Such walk-throughs can leave a false sense of security even when there are still important “stones unturned.” Nor are they usually able to provide in-depth analysis or to follow through with specific alternatives, their costs, and proven vendors.
A professional approach will provide a specific and customized plan for action which has given full consideration to the upside and downside of all options. An experienced professional can also foresee and knows pragmatic solutions to a wide variety of financial, political, and liveability issues that can crop up when solving security problems in the HOA community environment.
Will A Security Consultant Save The Association Money?
Possibly. If the HOA properly anticipates the costs of repair and replacement due to crime, implementing security measures and thus preventing losses can often save money. It makes sense to contract with a consultant when losses from criminal attacks exceed the costs of a planned, proposed, or budgeted security program. As an example, assume that someone breaks a window. This is the only thing that has happened and it costs $500 to replace the window. Should the board of directors spend $1,000 for a security assessment? Probably not unless it is a sign of further breakage to come. Boards usually don’t need to spend money (or authorize a professional security assessment) to deal with infrequent minor problems such as covering graffiti or a few broken windows.
But, on the other hand, what if someone is assaulted in the garage or while on the grounds? Is it worthwhile to call in a security consultant? Most would agree that it is indeed worthwhile if only for the psychological well being of the residents to know that measures have been taken to prevent recurrence and that the impact on owners’ resale value is minimal.
Why Not Wait Until There Is A Problem?
It is human nature that no one wants to pay for assistance until after a problem shows up. But waiting for a problem to happen could have horrific consequences.
Boards and their managers also need to keep in mind possible liability if they do not respond quickly enough to reported risks or suspected criminal activities. If there is a crime and it is reasonable obvious that such a crime was foreseeable, the board may be liable for not taking preventative measures. Association management may also be held liable.
Inadequate security can impact property values. A direct relationship links poor security, crime, and lowered property values. Astute real estate agents and brokers consider a condominium complex’s history of crime when advising clients. Sophisticated buyers and renters will also research communities for livability and any incidence of crime before committing to buy or rent. High crime or recent crime reduces a condo unit’s sales appeal.
Who is a real expert?
This is always a challenge when hiring professionals in a field where you have no personal expertise. However, it can usually be handled with a little research, observation, and common sense.
A professional designation of Certified Protection Professional (CPP) from the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) is one good sign. General intelligence and people skills are often good indicators as well.
Extensive real-life experience is probably even more important. An internet or telephone review of background, references and similar cases should give you an idea of related expertise. A brief meeting in person on site about your particular situation will usually give a feel for the breadth, relevance, and practicality of experience as well.
Most top professionals are happy to meet on site with HOA board director(s) to determine if there is a fit and to provide ideas and options on how to best proceed in a given situation. They are also willing to provide a written proposal of recommended services, deliverables and their costs for you to take to the board.
The typical cost of a professional written security assessment for a condominium complex starts at about $1,500 and can run to $5,000. This should give a good idea of what to do, how to do it and why to do it. Then there may well be costs to implement the plan which a good assessment will also estimate.
SecurityNet is very experienced at improving condominium HOA, apartment, and senior citizen community security. We would be happy to answer general questions by directors, owners, or managers at no charge and to discuss options for obtaining expert solutions to specific security challenges. Please feel free to contact us at (415)392-1810 or by email at [email protected].