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Subject: Safety and Surveillance Camera Issue
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KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/06/2018 10:29 AM  
Hi HOA experts,

I'm a new homeowner in a new building in a not-so-great area. In the past year, residents in my building have had multiple issues with a variety of criminal acts - vandalism of cars, attempted break-ins, theft, being chased by people with knives, etc. This has resulted in greater than 10+ police reports and a visit to our association from a police officer, who told us that the best thing we could do to prevent crime would be installing more cameras.

We are currently wired for additional security cameras, and will be taking a vote on them soon, but it's looking like we won't get the cameras because our Board and members of our association are making the following arguments, which I believe may be influencing members of our association:

1.) We enjoy a much better lifestyle than the people perpetrating crime and putting up cameras would unfairly target them
2.) Cameras don't prevent crime and don't deter crime
3.) The police officer who came and said we should install cameras, never said this
4.) Cameras only benefit those with parking spots near them and doorways near them and not everyone

Meanwhile, our association has paid for a special assessment regarding a building issue that only affects one floor of our Condominium - which happens to be the floor that one of our Board members sits on.

We have a vote upcoming on the security cameras. What would your recommendation be to get us the security around our perimeter that we desperately need? It's terrible not feeling safe in your own home. Thank you!
MarkM19
(California)

Posts:76


07/06/2018 11:49 AM  
KN1
You have me shaking my head over the comments. Here is what I would say to them.

1) Anyone who would say that because we have more than the criminals so we should allow them to come in and take what they want needs to have their head examined. They should not be on any board. The board members fiduciary duty is to his or her homeowners not outside criminals.


2) They are correct that cameras do not prevent crime until people are caught and prosecuted. Once the word gets out and believe me it does they will move to softer targets. Many crimes are committed over and over again by the same small groups.

3) Cameras work 24/7 365 Cops only come when called and petty theft is a low priority in most cases.

If the cameras can show them in crisp detail who the person or persons that are doing the damage it can help with other pending cases and possible send them away for longer than with evidence.

4) Cameras and good signage will help everyone except the bad guys. Bad guys are like Pigeons they wont leave until you make them move on.

Sorry to say it but sounds like you are currently being run by a crazy bunch.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:6


07/06/2018 11:56 AM  
The Board has a duty to act in the best interest of the association, so their comment about cameras unfairly targeting the would-be criminals is a non-starter. Cameras may not stop crime, but they do encourage the bad guys to find easier targets - just as with security systems. I do think it's true that location of the cameras may benefit some owners more than others - but I don't think that's an excuse not to install them, rather it's a reason to carefully consider placement.

Also consider that the presence of cameras may make homes in your community more marketable, especially if it's in a known high-crime area.

In your position, I would absolutely want cameras. I would also be thinking about hiring security (off-duty police?) if residents were being chased by knife-wielding crazies.







SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2206


07/06/2018 12:32 PM  
The board members are entitled to whatever they think, but so are the homeowners and since the HOMEOWNERS elect and re-elect (or recall) board members, paying attention to their concerns would be a prudent thing to do.

It may be the board is concerned about cost - more cameras mean more costs in installation and monitoring what's recorded, but all they have to do is a little research and then present it to the homeowners so they'll understand how all this will impact their assessments. Where would the new cameras be placed? How many cameras would be installed and how would they be protected against weather and people who try to sabotage them?

Now, it's true that having the cameras alone won't prevent crime, so you may also want to review these incidents and look for patterns. For example, did those car break-ins occur because people left something valuable on the seat for the world to see? Is there a certain area of the building that seems to be more vulnerable to mayhem? How's the lighting in that area? Don't know what's going on with the knife chasing people - did they have beef with the neighbor being chased or is there gang activity that's driving this? The police can help you identify possible trends and then the board can educate people on what they can do to reduce the chance of becoming another statistic.

There's also a neighborhood crime watch you might consider. This isn't about getting individual homeowners to patrol the community (they aren't qualified and you may wind up with the self described wannabes with itchy trigger finger like George Zimmerman and we know how THAT ended). Some say the crime watch group shouldn't be a formal committee of the association because of liability, so you should talk to the police department liaison about the pros and cons.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:349


07/06/2018 12:43 PM  
Sheesh.

Cameras are very useful in removing criminals - video is hard for even the best defense attorney to beat.

Make sure you have sufficient angles covered so that faces are always visible.

Maybe even put it all online - with an HOA website, everyone can monitor what is going on!
MarkM19
(California)

Posts:76


07/06/2018 12:54 PM  
George,
I totally agree the more eyes the better.
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/06/2018 1:25 PM  
Everyone,

Thank you so much for the additional tips and points of discussion - I really appreciate it!
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/06/2018 4:14 PM  
When our developer built our twin towers on a city block, our urban neighborhood was pretty "sketchy": Our block had large vacant lots or parking lots near it, a 1+ acre park that seems to serve no one except drug dealers across the street.

So, to make this otherwise very convenient block desirable, the developer placed many cameras around the block. And we have some inside our lobbies and at th underground entrance to our garage levels (but non in th garages.) I think we have 26 cameras (at the pool too).

The two lobbies with entrances from the street have reception desks that were & are staffed much of the time and are highly visible from the street. The kiosk that lets cars in is staffed 24-7.

What I'm getting at KN1 is: as a new buildings, didn't your developer add a lot of at least feel-good devices and visual cues to deter intruders? If the developer is still in control, Owners should be asking for more cameras. Of course they are a deterrent!!

If intruders are following residents in, residents need to be educated too. Put another way, how are these trespassers & criminals getting in????
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:7477


07/06/2018 4:43 PM  
Okay, you want the cameras? Prepare to pay for them. Just like the other issue, you all may need a special assessment to pay for them to. Your HOA may feel 2 special assessments back to back may be too much for people to go for. Not knowing what the other issue is, sounds like it's something more pressing than security cameras.

Besides can't individual owners who want cameras put them up on their own homes? Why does it have to be the HOA to pay for it? Seems they should just approve the location and use of the camera's for individual owners. That would be the route I would take. You want cameras then get them approved to put them up for you. If you ALL want security cameras on common property then be prepared for everyone to do another special assessment to pay for them.

Former HOA President
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/06/2018 5:08 PM  
If you (re?)read the OP, Melissa, it sounds like this is a condo building. If so, no Owners can install anything on common areas.

And we have no idea if their purchases installation, etc., will cause another special assessment. The OP writes that the wiring already is there.

But that does raise another question, KN: who'd vote on this expenditure. Normally, it'd be just the Board. Are you on the board?
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:349


07/06/2018 5:18 PM  
Costs for cameras and computed storage of the feed from the cameras have plummeted in the last few years ...get an independent IT company to install lots of small, less capable cameras and run it to the condo website ....let everyone watch it all the time ...great way to catch criminals and notice your neIghbors’ interest in your neighbors 🙂
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/06/2018 5:23 PM  
Hi Melissa,

That is a great idea but like Kerry said, we are a condo and are not allowed to do these things individually (changing or affixing anything to the exterior of our building is proscribed). In fact, we (the camera-interested) asked if we could independently fund the camera system but were told that approaching community issues piecemeal like this could set a bad precedent. So we are stuck in this weird place where we may not get cameras and may not be allowed to put them up on our own.

Kerry, I am not on the Board but the Board is essentially setting up a vote in the same manner as would occur for elections so that the “will of the people” can be done, essentially. In some ways I like this approach because the result will reflect the will of the Association (or at least the members present for the vote) but in some ways I wish the Board would make what I would consider the no-brainer decision and authorize cameras. Beyond the potential crime deterrence and capturing of evidence supporting criminal apprehension, I have been doing a little research into case law and apparently Associations can be liable for foreseeable crime, particularly if bad lighting or other factors are a known issue.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/06/2018 5:30 PM  
IMO, Boards should bite the bullet and make these tough decisions; that is their job.

Yes, familiar with the lighting case, where a woman complained bitterly about poor lighting; the Board did nothing or not enough, and she was, indeed, assaulted and sued & collected plenty. But even though I do think cameras deter intruders in our twin towers, I do not think you'd have a case that lack of cameras caused injury on your premises.

I'm still curious: how are intruders getting onto your premises??

Re: the perimeter: does you HOA have security staffers who patrol the perimeter? In other words what kind of deterrents DOES your HOA have?
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/06/2018 5:36 PM  
Hi Kerry,

We are a small condominium on a city block and there is essentially no secure perimeter that extends beyond the exterior of our building. We do not have a front desk w/staff (to keep fees low, the condo was set up as free entry-exit). Other than cameras, we do not really have security of any kind.

Again, this is my fault and I should have known these things prior to buying the condo. New homeowner and I had no idea what I was getting into. Now that I'm here...I'm trying to figure how to make this work so that I can feel some sense of security. I'm open to ideas other than cameras, too - but cameras just seem like they couldn't hurt and might actually help.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/06/2018 6:12 PM  
I know of condos like yours in my 'hood. Let me think about this. Meantime, how ARE intruders getting into your building? How many entrances are there? Is there a garage with street entrance gate? Or?
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/06/2018 6:30 PM  
Kerry,

Thanks for helping me think through this! No intruders yet that I know of - the knife-wielding incident was on a street adjacent to the building. We have two ground floor entrances and a basement entrance. The ground floor entrances have camera coverage but nowhere else around the building. We do not have a garage, just limited parking adjacent to the building. The parking spots without camera coverage have been broken into 4 times in the last 6 months. That’s where I personally think we’d have the best bang for our buck with cameras - there are numerous studies showing cameras are particularly effective at deterring property crime.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:243


07/06/2018 11:53 PM  
Since it's coming up for a vote, you don't have to convince the board. You need support for the vote. Get proxies, go around and drum up votes. It would be helpful if you knew the cost and whether it would mean an assessment or whether there are funds available and so forth, as some people will want to know this before deciding.

Others are going to be like yeah, I want more cameras, where do I sign?

I don't think it's going to be very expensive for such a small place. And you have no security guards, so I am with you. This is a no-brainer.

JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4108


07/07/2018 1:13 AM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 07/06/2018 11:49 AM
KN1
You have me shaking my head over the comments. Here is what I would say to them.

1) Anyone who would say that because we have more than the criminals so we should allow them to come in and take what they want needs to have their head examined. They should not be on any board. The board members fiduciary duty is to his or her homeowners not outside criminals.


2) They are correct that cameras do not prevent crime until people are caught and prosecuted. Once the word gets out and believe me it does they will move to softer targets. Many crimes are committed over and over again by the same small groups.

3) Cameras work 24/7 365 Cops only come when called and petty theft is a low priority in most cases.

If the cameras can show them in crisp detail who the person or persons that are doing the damage it can help with other pending cases and possible send them away for longer than with evidence.

4) Cameras and good signage will help everyone except the bad guys. Bad guys are like Pigeons they wont leave until you make them move on.

Sorry to say it but sounds like you are currently being run by a crazy bunch.


AMEN ... As Jennifer noted you need to get support from your neighbors. Talk to them and if they are not going to attend the meeting Get a Proxy from them to cast their vote as you wish. If it gets voted down then request at the meeting to put up your own cameras such as ARLO system for your personal unit. If they state NO ... then in the future if something happens ... the HOA can potentially be held responsible. There have been huge lawsuits in tthe past where an owner requested permission to have for example more lighting for their unit and when was denied and they were later violated ... the HOA lost BIG TIME.
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/07/2018 4:43 AM  
Jennifer and Janet,

I LOVE the drumming up support for votes idea! And it's a fantastic way to meet neighbors in this otherwise pretty "everyone keeps to themselves" building.

Thank you everyone for all of you excellent ideas. Fingers crossed!
AugustinD


Posts:1045


07/07/2018 6:15 AM  
I think that vote ought to include the estimated annual expense of the cameras. It seems to me the estimate should include (1) the number of cameras presently thought to be needed; (2) roughly where they will be installed; and (3) whether someone will be paid to check the film footage, particularly when a crime occurs. Some cities have very rough parts of town. Also case law does show that, when a HOA knows crime is a problem and does nothing, the HOA may be held liable by the victims. Given the pattern at the OPs condo/HOA, the OP is right to pursue this.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/07/2018 11:18 AM  
Good advice to get to know your neighbors and get their proxies if that's how votes can be done in DC HOAs. Be armed with knowledge and research first. You might, for instance, walk or drive around your area and take pics of similar buildings' cameras.

By law, most likely, you can have the addresses of all owners. If you have a lot of absentee owners, you'll want to send them something via US mail (we have about 27-30%).

I agree your parking lot sounds like a place where cameras will appeal to Owners. Is it enclosed? How many cars does it hold?

The lawsuit that Janet refers to is I think one I referred to as well. It involved lighting ON HOA property. Don't know what Augustin's refer to. Not sure how the courts treat "safety" issues/injuries on public sidewalks. I also do not think the Board will be required to oppose their own CC&Rs & let TN mount a camera outside his unit. In most buildings like this, that would be common area.

In the 17 years since our building opened, the lots around us have filled in and the area feels far less isolated. BUT the 1 acre park across from our street level town homes, still is a problem.

Low & mid rises in my neighborhood seem to have ample cameras around the exterior perimeters of their buildings. I took a good look on a walk this AM. Some smaller HOAs have a security officer rove around their buildings a few hours each night or even just on Fri/Sat nights. One building nearby has a small desk inside the entry in their small lobby where the officer sits when not roving. I've noticed that even on nights when he's not on duty, a jacket is hung over the desk chair making it appear is if someone's on duty.

I think you probably can find other useful tips online that make it appear there's presence. We have one lounge for instance that has windows on the street across from a very isolated stretch of sidewalk at night. It's high enough that no one can see if it's really occupied. We have a light in the window that makes it SEEM like someone's in there. The belief that "eyes" might be on them, is a deterrent in and of itself. So you might be able to do some lighting tricks.

Unlike our developer who was taking a big risk that people would buy in our area 17 years ago, and who spent a lot so that buyers would leave the "burbs and come downtown, it sounds like your developer didn't do much. And this is typical, to keep dues low to sell their product developers scimp on important items. In our case the developer estimated a $$ number that was waaaaay too low to fund our reserves every year.

Curious, TN. How many units are in your HOA? How many directors? Do you have a property mgr.?
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:243


07/08/2018 11:15 PM  
On the other end, cameras (and any other 'security' measures) can *create* liability where none should exist.

I did not realize this until I was looking something up regarding cameras this evening, but it makes sense. This is why our cameras only exist to provide video evidence of crimes to association property, and the off-duty LEOs we used to have as 'security guards' told me they are NOT here to protect us or our property. Only association property.

I thought that was rude, but now I understand that and why our current 'guards' cannot be referred to as security guards. They are 'courtesy patrol'.

To even give the impression that cameras or 'security guards' exist to protect individuals or individual property creates a legal obligation for them to actually do that.

So, if someone gets shot in your parking lot, and the belief was that he felt that due to the cameras, help would be brought from someone monitoring the cameras, the association could be in for a very costly lawsuit.

Cameras carry the responsibility of signage to state their intended purpose to avoid potential liability. 'These cameras are recording, not monitored'

Homeowners should be aware of the limitations of the cameras. They might have a deterrent effect, since there will be video evidence of crimes that occur, but it cannot be stated that they WILL deter crime, if that makes sense, because that promise cannot be kept.

The terms 'Safety' and 'Security' are to completely be avoided unless in the context that all owners, residents and guests are completely responsible for their own safety/security, as the association does not provide such.

Also, it would need to be stated in whatever the proper way is that the association does not guarantee they will always be recording, and therefore have video available for the police if a crime does occur. If the cameras fail for some reason, the association needs protection from any implied promises.

It's something a good attorney needs to review, and adopt appropriate policy for. It's called an 'Acceptable Use Policy' according to this article:

https://www.hoaleader.com/public/3-Things-Include-in-Your-HOAs-Onsite-Camera-Policy.cfm

(And therefore I retract my comment that more cameras are a 'no-brainer').
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:243


07/08/2018 11:57 PM  
Posted By JanetB2 on 07/07/2018 1:13 AM
If it gets voted down then request at the meeting to put up your own cameras such as ARLO system for your personal unit. If they state NO ... then in the future if something happens ... the HOA can potentially be held responsible. There have been huge lawsuits in tthe past where an owner requested permission to have for example more lighting for their unit and when was denied and they were later violated ... the HOA lost BIG TIME.




Lighting, sure. Cameras, no. Cameras do not protect anyone. They provide evidence after the fact, but failing to provide such a measure would not make any association liable for anything.

MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:7477


07/09/2018 4:57 AM  
I wonder if there is a sign? If there is a sign stating "Video Surveillance etc.." is displayed, that may be an issue. Most HOA's frown against signs. Usually only For sale/rent signs are allowed. So could see that being a possible player in this scenario. Otherwise, I am bit perplexed over this.

Something more must be going on that we may not getting full details on.

Former HOA President
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:243


07/09/2018 5:11 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 07/09/2018 4:57 AM
I wonder if there is a sign? If there is a sign stating "Video Surveillance etc.." is displayed, that may be an issue. Most HOA's frown against signs. Usually only For sale/rent signs are allowed. So could see that being a possible player in this scenario. Otherwise, I am bit perplexed over this.

Something more must be going on that we may not getting full details on.




? the signage would be placed by the HOA in this case.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/09/2018 8:24 AM  
I think you are being overly cautious, Jennifer. Those of us in high rise urban condos already know not to use the words "security" or "safety" as advised by both our HOA counsel and MC. Near the beginning of our Welcome Package, for instance, we inform residents that they are responsible for their own safety and security. This is repeated in our Community Handbook (Rules & Reg.) near the beginning

We call our officers "Access Control Officers" (ACOs). They carry no wagons of any kind.

Cameras CAN deter as pointed out by posters above. Their presence as well as the presence of officers DO encourage criminals to seek softer targets. Since ours on the sidewalk perimeter show the few small alcoves there, the cameras do show homeless people sleeping in them and our ACOs ask them to move on.

IF the HOA has 24/7 ACO staff as we do, the cameras DO "monitor" as well as record.

I do agree that resident need to be informed and reminded that the ACOs & cameras are to monitor pour common areas, which is exactly correct.

To sum up, while HOAs must inform residents that they must look after their own safety & security, additional cameras remain a "no brainier."
JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4108


07/09/2018 2:30 PM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 07/08/2018 11:57 PM
Posted By JanetB2 on 07/07/2018 1:13 AM
If it gets voted down then request at the meeting to put up your own cameras such as ARLO system for your personal unit. If they state NO ... then in the future if something happens ... the HOA can potentially be held responsible. There have been huge lawsuits in tthe past where an owner requested permission to have for example more lighting for their unit and when was denied and they were later violated ... the HOA lost BIG TIME.




Lighting, sure. Cameras, no. Cameras do not protect anyone. They provide evidence after the fact, but failing to provide such a measure would not make any association liable for anything.



Cameras and security system can also deter someone from committing violence the same as lighting. Owner’s will generally have signs on windows or doors disclosing the security.
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/18/2018 7:58 PM  
Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that, due to employing your expert advice, the camera measure passed!!! Thank you all so much for your advice and support.
AugustinD


Posts:1045


07/18/2018 8:00 PM  
Attaway, KN1. Thank you for the update.
JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4108


07/18/2018 9:14 PM  
Awesome ... Thank You for giving us an update to help other owners in a similar situation.
KN1
(District of Columbia)

Posts:8


07/19/2018 3:18 AM  
Janet and Augustin -

Of course! I believe the keys to success were:
1.) Low cost of the special assessment (between approximately $100-$200 per person and no monitoring fees due to footage review volunteers)
2.) An owner’s speech I made at the beginning of the special meeting citing studies that show cameras’ effect on crime
3.) Going around to neighbors, drumming up support, and making sure we obtained the support of the neighbors with the largest units (our vote is based on shares, essentially, with those with large shares getting slightly more of a vote than small shares)
5.) High attendance/awareness of the issue due to prior debates on our listserv

I hope this can help other owners in similar situations! Thanks again!
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:243


07/19/2018 4:39 AM  
Posted By KN1 on 07/19/2018 3:18 AM
Janet and Augustin -

Of course! I believe the keys to success were:
1.) Low cost of the special assessment (between approximately $100-$200 per person and no monitoring fees due to footage review volunteers)
2.) An owner’s speech I made at the beginning of the special meeting citing studies that show cameras’ effect on crime
3.) Going around to neighbors, drumming up support, and making sure we obtained the support of the neighbors with the largest units (our vote is based on shares, essentially, with those with large shares getting slightly more of a vote than small shares)
5.) High attendance/awareness of the issue due to prior debates on our listserv

I hope this can help other owners in similar situations! Thanks again!





Great job! Congrats.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5389


07/19/2018 8:03 AM  
Excellant, KN. Along with the camera solution, you demonstrate how neighbors working together CAN get things done! I hope your HOA appreciates your leadership.
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