On CAI-Coachella Valley’s 40th anniversary, we look at the evolution of security practices within CIDs, realizing that back to basics and ‘back to the future’ can go hand in hand.

By Alan Clark

The more things change in the security industry, the more they stay the same. HOAs are increasingly adopting the latest security technology for their common-interest developments (CIDs), but nothing replaces dedicated personal security service.

It’s no surprise that HOAs originated in big cities where urban planning, zoning and land use decisions factor so greatly into the pace of development, land values and, of course, quality of life. One of the biggest changes I have seen in 45 years in the security business is the increase in gated HOA communities. In California alone, CAI estimates there are close to 55,000 CIDs.

HOAs are designed to protect and serve the common interest of residents, of which a big component is security. In recent years, larger CIDs in smaller markets have put a much bigger emphasis on controlling access. Everybody’s familiar with gated entry, but some larger HOAs have even evolved to implement mobile patrols with ticket-writing capabilities.

With mobile, cloud, biometric and even drone technologies to license-plate recognition camera and robotic guard innovations, HOA security advancements are about quick action and delivering instant and comprehensive information 24-7. We’ve come a long way since the 1970s when 9-1-1 and gated entry introduced new urgency and access standards, and the ‘80s when cameras came onto the security scene.

With greater CID size and complexity over the decades, HOAs have taken on greater responsibility. And with more sophisticated security tools come more sophisticated demands from HOAs and residents. The higher the tech the younger the workforce tends to be, which can present challenges regarding ensuring face-to-face customer service fundamentals. This further underscores the need for strong, personal commitment to the customer.

Let’s face it: Every HOA now is a potential customer for the security electronics market, from overnight surveillance to simply letting the maid service on to the property. However, I’ve never had a customer reach out to say, “You have the best technology I’ve seen.” They do make the effort though to compliment a security guard’s quality customer service and extra effort.

My favorite motto is “Do What You Say You Will Do.” Maybe it’s more than a little ironic that honesty, accountability and responsiveness were more commonplace 40 years ago when the Coachella Valley CAI was founded and when there were almost zero requirements and regulations on security personnel compared to today. We’ve all had that helpless feeling trying to navigate the phone menu of the cable company just to get a simple question answered. An after-hours call from an HOA or CID resident is rarely simple and should always be answered quickly by a live person.

Twenty years ago, I first read about live guard service going out the door, so to speak, but that’s not happening in my lifetime. Everybody wants to be wanted, needed and accepted, including all of the stakeholders in a CID. No matter how high-tech a Coachella Valley HOA gets with its security partner and setup in the next 40 years, it should still demand that personal service touch.

— Alan Clark is the President at DSI Security Services,
a national leader in the security solutions industry for more than 50 years.

This article appeared in the March 2021 Quorum Magazine. Read more from Quorum here.