News Column

Officials to review Lakewood Ranch gatehouse security

May 29, 2014

By Kathryn Moschella, The Bradenton Herald

May 29--LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Town Hall staff is conducting a full security review of the two gates manned by guards in Lakewood Ranch to make sure rules are being enforced.

Operations Department staff developed a measurement tool to incorporate new video technology and onsite audits to conduct weekly performance checks of security personnel, according to Eva Rey, executive director of the Inter-District Authority that manages the Community Development Districts. The measurement tool incorporates a series of security questions gate guards are required to ask.

Lakewood Ranch gates at Legacy Boulevard and Balmoral Woods Boulevard are manned by security guards through a contractual agreement between districts 2, 5 and 6 and U.S. Security Associates, an outside vendor. The company also provides

roving patrol security to the Greenbrook community in District 4.

Rey said security performance oversight is part of a long-term plan to strengthen vendor relationships. It will be incorporated into operations staff activities.

"This ensures that as the owner we have firsthand knowledge of some of the challenges our service providers face on a day-to-day basis," Rey said. "We can then continue to work with them to develop solutions that enhance our ability to provide friendly and efficient operations."

Residents became concerned about home protection and gate security after a series of home burglaries last fall in the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, and again in February at Thornhill Court overlooking the golf course.

Because most Lakewood Ranch roads were built with tax-exempt bonds, the roads are public and gate access cannot be denied.

Road privatization has recently been proposed for Lakewood Ranch, which some residents say would result in better security, less noise and reduced road wear from outside traffic.

"The guards can't stop anybody from coming in because the roads are public. Many residents thought they were buying into a private gated community and they were very indignant, and I don't blame them," said Alan Roth, IDA Board treasurer.

Guards are stationed at the Balmoral Woods gate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the Legacy gate is guarded 24 hours a day.

Protocol requires guards to stop all visitors and ask for destinations, while residents enter via a separate gate via community transponders. Private contractors can be allowed to enter more quickly if residents give guards their permission in advance. Gate cameras photograph drivers, their cars and license plates and can record questions from guards along with driver responses.

The security review has also been prompted by a perception problem, according to Chairman Richard Moran of the Safety Committee for the Country Club/Edgewater Village Association. The District 2 supervisor said residents complain all the time about guards not asking needed questions before allowing people to gain entrance.

"A lot of residents tell me they see two cars going through the security gate faster than they do, and they complain the guards aren't doing what they're supposed to do," Moran said. "We need to know if they're asking the right questions."

Moran said there's a turnover problem with guards leaving frequently.

"Guards who have been here for a while know what to do," he said. "But these are low-paying jobs, and there's high turnover when new jobs are offered to them. People come in to replace them without the necessary experience."

Moran said he feels confident changes will be made by the IDA when recommended.

Calls to U.S. Security Associates seeking comment were not returned in time for publication.

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.


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Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)

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