HOAs want nothing more than to create healthy, happy, safe, and clean communities. But too often, things happen that are out of the control of the HOA and may put this vision in jeopardy. Case in point: vandalism.

For whatever reason, vandalism tends to happen more often in the summer months, when pool areas are open and more people are spending time outside. With the sunny season fast approaching, it’s a good idea to review your community’s security measures and response policies so that you are better prepared to prevent and respond to vandalism.

Preventing vandalism

The ideal scenario is to prevent vandalism from happening at all. While this is partially out of your HOA board’s control, there are some steps you can take to help limit or prevent vandalism in your neighborhood.

Keep areas well-lit. Good lighting in public areas will deter would-be vandals. A well-lit area increases a perpetrator’s chances of being caught, which will hopefully cause them to second guess the criminal action.

Install security cameras. Security cameras, placed strategically on HOA property, can help protect community property from vandalism. Be sure to cover particularly vulnerable areas, such as parking lots or the back walls of buildings.

Use fences and gates. Limiting access to certain areas, via a gate or a fence, can be a great way to help prevent vandalism. As a bonus, your residents will feel more secure knowing that these public areas are kept off-limits to non-residents.

Implement a neighborhood watch. A neighborhood watch group keeps residents involved in the safety of the community. While neighborhood watch groups should not actively engage with potential vandals, they can quickly report suspicious behavior to proper authorities, limiting the opportunity for serious damage.

Regular maintenance. If graffiti, broken equipment, or other signs of vandalism are not addressed quickly, it could inspire further illegal actions. Make sure you stay on top of any signs of disrepair, to help encourage a clean, well-kept neighborhood overall.

Landscape strategically. Landscaping can be used to help deter vandals. You could consider planting a thorny bush in front of a vulnerable stretch of wall, or block access to a certain area with a tall shrub. Additionally, keep bushes and shrubs well trimmed, so as to avoid creating spaces for potential vandals to hide.

Use appropriate signage. In areas where you are concerned about vandalism, post signs that communicate your HOA policies and consequences about this particular type of crime. You should also post signs if there are security cameras in an area, which can help deter vandalism.

Responding to vandalism

Despite an HOA’s best efforts, incidents of vandalism will likely occur in every community. Here are some ideas to help you respond appropriately.

Notify residents. It’s important to keep your residents notified about any significant vandalism incidents in your community. Not only does this help residents steer clear of any damaged property, but it also helps them stay vigilant so that they can help prevent future problems. Emails, letters, or social media posts are all effective ways to do this.

Secure the area. Vandalized property can sometimes pose a danger to residents. Broken windows, hazardous materials, or other signs of vandalism should be clearly marked in order to keep residents safe. Hazard tape or clear signage can help make sure everyone keeps their distance when needed.

Document and report the incident. If you need to involve the police or your insurance provider, you need to make sure the incident is well documented and clearly reported as soon as possible. Take pictures, gather stories from witnesses, review security footage, and do your best to create a clear picture of what actually happened.

Clean or repair, quickly. Vandalism can inspire more vandalism if not dealt with quickly. That’s why it’s very important to clean up or repair any vandalism as soon as possible. Once you have taken pictures and documented the incident, including allowing the proper authorities to see it firsthand, get to work cleaning and/or repairing the damage.

Review security measures. Think about when and how the vandalism occurred. Where did your security measures fail? How can you adjust your security in order to prevent incidents like this in the future? Identify your weak spots and address them as best you can.

Related: Practicing Proper Pool Etiquette

No one wants to deal with vandalism in their community, but it’s important to be ready for it, just the same. Take the time to implement these preventative measures before vandalism occurs, and also be ready with a game plan to address any vandalism that does happen. With adequate preparation and quick response times, you will be able to maintain a safe, clean neighborhood that residents are proud to call home.