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Centretown News Online
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Gated communities remind outsiders 'you donít belong'
Friday, 14 September 2012
By Const. Khoa N. Hoang
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Const. Khoa N. Hoang
With our first baby set to arrive, I wanted to do something special for my wife. I wanted our final few weeks without screaming kids, sleepless nights and extra meal planning to be memorable. So five months ago while talking to friends, the idea came to me: a prego-tour that would allow us to visit friends and family while relaxing in the comfort of absolute silence one last time.

For three weeks in August, we travelled to Hawaii and California and watched Broadway shows in New York City. It was perfect in every way except for one thing that caught my attention throughout the entire trip.

It appeared that gated communities are popular to an extent throughout the U.S. that is rarely seen here in Canada. Entire neighbourhoods are surrounded by physical barriers to separate the residents from everyone outside. These barriers were often too low to keep anyone out but acted as a reminder to everyone else that you don’t belong.

Many of the residents I spoke with enjoyed the sense of safety it provides. Still, studies into the crime rates of gated and regular communities show little difference in the number and types of crimes reported. 

When asked why gated residents felt safe, most replied that it’s because they know who lives in the area and are therefore more likely to take action to protect the neighbourhood. But no one needs a gate and a security guard to feel a sense of belonging.

No one ever spoke about financial wealth being a commonality among neighbours. But it appeared to me that these communities housed only residents of similar economic class and that the gates limited exposure to anyone outside the boundaries of social economics.

So I started thinking what I would have become if gated communities were popular here in Ottawa. Could a poor Vietnamese refugee kid whose family had no money and lived in community housing strive to achieve what I have today? Probably not.

My success both personally and professionally came from the role models and mentors that took the time to help influence my decision making. Downtown Ottawa in the 1980s and 1990s was a working class hub of cultural diversity; everyone knew each other and helped each other out. I was never treated differently or excluded from walking somewhere because I was poor.

Canadians have always valued a common principle and a general belief that we are all equals. Our community leaders work very hard to ensure that everyone has a sense of belonging in our city or, in the words of Chief Charles Bordeleau, that everyone matters.

But despite what your opinions are of gated communities, they are successful in accomplishing what some communities here still struggle to do: inspire a sense of belonging and inclusion. Healthy communities require work, and that means taking time to speak with someone even though you’re too tired to do so. Or perhaps inviting neighbours over that you don’t know that well.

Most of my work in crime prevention reconfirms that healthy communities take the time to know one another, and that empowered residents who take ownership of where they live are more likely to protect one another.

So before the autumn leaves turn colour and the snow starts falling, today’s a good time to invest in your neighbours. A small investment of time today cannot only protect your families from potential threats but can also improve the quality of your community as a whole.

Last Updated ( Friday, 22 February 2013 )
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