Fighting Crime in Condominium Communities

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Fighting Crime in Condominium Communities

Condominium communities are populated by a wide variety of individuals from all walks of life.  In any given day, you will also have a number of visitors to residents, trades persons, and residents of neighbouring communities on corporation property.

With so many individuals sharing space, it could be argued that to a degree, criminal activity on the property in inevitable.  Theft, vandalism and illegal drugs are likely the most common of all crimes that are committed in or against condominium communities.  There may also be the occasional incidents of major crimes such as assault, often domestic.

Toronto Police Services keeps running totals of annual crime statistics for the city (http://data.torontopolice.on.ca/).  As of the writing of this blog entry (May 2019), there have been 2,535 break and enters, 983 robberies, 818 sexual assaults, and 387 thefts over $5,000 so far this year. That’s 4,723 incidences of crimes that could occur in any community.  Further, there have been 19 homicides and 114 shootings.  It’s a scary world we live in.

Crime prevention is key in keeping your community safe, but it is also important to respond to criminal activity appropriately when it occurs.

Let’s start by reviewing some tips to prevent crime in a condominium community.

Develop a Sense of Community

Safer communities are those where residents and visitors to the property are not anonymous.  As we rely more on technology to communicate, it becomes more difficult to bring community members together to socialize and know each other.  But with criminal activity ever on the rise (just watch the local news!) it is increasingly important to know our neighbours.

Friendly neighbours are able to look out for each other and can spot suspicious persons on the property.  Children are more likely to think twice about misbehaving in front of their parent’s friends.

If you’re concerned about crime in your community, think for a moment if there is a way to bring your community members together to get to know each other.  Education sessions about community safety can be a good place to start!  For resources visit the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto which organizes neighbourhood watch programs (http://crimepreventionto.org/index.html).

Consider an Overall Security Review

Do you know what crime prevention through environmental design is?  It’s based on a theory that “the built environment influences the behaviour of people”.  For more information about this concept, visit https://www.torontopolice.on.ca/crimeprevention/environmental.pdf.

There are several companies in the market that will assist with overall safety reviews of a property to develop action plans relating to possible areas for improvement.  This is a good start to understanding how to make sure that the design of your property and its security equipment are most effective in preventing criminal behaviour.

Prioritize Enhancements Effectively

It is easy to spend a lot of money on community safety initiatives which may or may not be effective.  Keep in mind that we are trying to deter criminal behaviour, but we will never be able to eliminate it completely.

This note is extremely important in the condominium environment where you are spending everyone’s common funds, and operating budgets might be limited.

So take a moment to think if adding thousands of dollars worth of cameras will provide the impact that you’re looking for.  Perhaps improved lighting, signage, or a change in access control is the wiser way to spend the funds.  But by all means, install those cameras if they are right for your community.

“Locks keep people honest; Criminals will still find their way in” – author unknown

Earlier in this blog post, we looked at some common types of crime in condominium communities.  The appropriate response will vary depending on circumstances, so let’s look at a few tips for each type of occurrence.  Of course, this list is not comprehensive but it should give you a starting point of important things to consider.

In all cases, and I cannot stress this enough, it is important not to pretend to be a law enforcement officer.  Crime should ALWAYS be reported to police, and police should be allowed to investigate.  In interfering with the criminal justice process, you leave yourself open to risk to your own personal safety.

Theft

  • Consider if the incident was targeted at an individual or presents risk to others in the community.

  • If there is risk to others in the community, communication should be prepared identifying to community members what the risk is while being mindful of confidentiality.

  • Encourage anyone targeted by theft to report to Police. Police can only respond to persons directly impacted by the theft.

  • Review site safety and consider any enhancements to prevent unauthorized access.

Vandalism

  • Report to Police.

  • Make sure that the vandalism is cleaned up as quickly as possible. Visible vandalism invites more vandalism!

  • Review site lighting, camera angles and signage to ensure that possible vandals know they can be seen.

  • Review costs to see if the responsible person can be charged back (note: check your Declaration/By-laws for authority to do so).

Illegal drugs

  • Report to Police.

  • Consider enforcement against the responsible person under Section 117 of the Condominium Act which states “No person shall permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity in a unit or in the common elements if the condition or the activity is likely to damage the property or cause injury to an individual”.

  • Consult legal counsel for guidance.

Assault

  • Report to Police.

  • Consider enforcement against the responsible person under Section 117 of the Condominium Act which states “No person shall permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity in a unit or in the common elements if the condition or the activity is likely to damage the property or cause injury to an individual”.

  • Consider the impact of the incident on workplace safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that employees are informed of potential risks and that the provider of the workplace take all reasonable steps to keep workers safe from violence.

  • Prepare communication to other Residents only if appropriate. Be mindful of the right of privacy of the victim.

  • Consult legal counsel for guidance.

 

Lyndsey McNally, RCM, is a Team Leader at Malvern Condominium Property Management.