In terms of building security, boards today are in a tricky position. They are obliged to protect the residents, their property and offer the same quality of life just as they did prior to the great economic belly flop of the 21st Century. The problem is, however, they have less cash to do so.
So, why not just cut some security fat from your condo, co-op, and HOA budgets? Two words: liability lawsuit. As Tim O’Brien, president of the Criminal Intelligence Administration in Astoria, points out, “if you thought the need existed before the recession . . . Say you have a CCTV [closed circuit TV] and you get rid of it, or don’t maintain it, you can be held liable if something goes wrong,” he says. “A civil liability case could cost the building one to ten million dollars.” Even if your condo or co-op wins the case, that’s still a lot of money spent on legal fees, and a hassle that could have been avoided with a relatively low-cost camera repair.
While crime rates are down in New York City and most surrounding areas, no board would want to find themselves responsible for an on-site mugging or vandalism in the halls. The Building Code requires the most basic security measures, such as deadbolts and peepholes, but who's to say a building does not require measure beyond that such as cameras or retinal scanners.
So, now they’ve got you. Despite the lauded reduction in crime, cutting back, relaxing, or not maintaining existing security measures could still get your building into serious trouble, even if your board complies with the bare bones legal requirements for safety and security. The board needs to protect residents and their property, but also the building or the association from taking serious financial hits. To do this: if your building doesn't have a security plan, you need one. But if it already does, then revisiting your plan might expose the areas where you can cut costs.
When it comes to building security plans, Des Smyth, president of SecureWatch24 (SW24) in New York City, cautions communities not to scale back on security measures because of a visible or statistical decreases in neighborhood crime.