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IOLProperty - South African Property For Sale
Wednesday Feb 20, 2013

Gated complexes give 'false sense of security'

In the end, kilometres of concrete walls, reams of high-voltage wires and 24-hour security patrols were not enough to keep model Reeva Steenkamp safe from harm.

Inside one of the countless walled suburban compounds dotting the country, Steenkamp was shot dead last week at the luxury home of her boyfriend, Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius.

Many experts believe gated communities, also known as security villages, give residents a false sense of security from the high violent crime rates that plague the country.

"People are seeking to create a lifestyle that is out of touch with what contemporary urban living actually is," said Erna van Wyk, a psychologist at Wits University, who specialises in traumatic stress. Her research shows that security village residents often band together over shared values. In turn, they feel threats can only come from outside groups.

"There's a false split of where I am safe and where I am not safe in the world," Van Wyk said.

"However, domestic violence is every bit as common in gated communities."

Garth Jaeger, director of Garnat Properties, the developer behind Silver Woods Country Estate where Steenkamp was killed, said: "In the past 10 years, demand for these things (gated communities) has increased almost exponentially because people have been worried about crime."

But South Africa's well-to-do homeowners aren't just obsessed with safety.

Some - like Van Wyk's colleagues at the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies - see the idyllic lifestyle predicated on wealth and a particular type of elitism as harking back to a darker time in the country's history, with the erection of fortified enclaves being reflective of a new apartheid, where well-todo whites seek to separate themselves from poorer blacks.

Meanwhile, residential, commercial and industrial security has become a huge contributor to the economy.

The security sector is estimated to be a R60 billion market, with more than 390 000 active security officers employed throughout the country.

Sapa

 
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