I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
The upper crust of society doesn’t much like mixing with the general population so they spend a lot of money to live behind walls with guarded, gated entrances. Gated communities have become a metaphor for inequality and are criticized for promoting an us-versus-them mentality. Following are descriptions of several gated communities around the world.
Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, United States
There are probably more gated communities in the United States than in any country of the world. They take many shapes and forms but they all have the same foundation, which is that with enough wealth you can buy your way out of neighbourhoods in which you feel threatened. These places are not for Walmart sales associates or Amazon order pickers.
The Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, Boca Raton, Florida is another way of spelling excess. It has all the necessary amenities for the very wealthy: Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course (invitation only), deep-water marina, fine dining, 24-hour security, tennis and croquet courts, ballroom, etc.
The 700 or so houses are called “estate homes,” and if you have to ask how much they cost you can’t afford them. But, there’s almost nothing available for less than $2 million.
Numbeo measures living conditions in many of the world’s cities; one of its indices is crime. The group says the most crime-ridden city in the world in 2020 is Caracas, Venezuela with a rating of 84.57. São Paulo, Brazil checks in as 22nd, with a rating of 70.67. For comparison, here are some U.S. cities:
- Miami―115th (52.81).
- New York―173rd (45.71).
- Irvine, California―386th (19.12).
São Paulo’s crime rate has been dropping in recent years, but not enough for the folks who live in Alphaville.
Construction of Alphaville began in the 1970s as the urban blight of congestion and crime rose in São Paulo. It’s a community that appeals to people who have money and an understandable wish to hang on to it.
There are about 20,000 residences in Alphaville, along with businesses, sports and social clubs, bars, restaurants, golf courses, and schools. The folk who live there also have the comfort of knowing there’s a perimeter wall and security fences to keep out the unsavoury elements.
According the costoflivingreports.com, the average salary in São Paulo is $560 a month. But, that’s not going get a person through the gates into Alphaville where a 3-bedroom townhouse is on the market for $150,485 with monthly condo fees of $210.
The message is clear: Alphaville is for us and not for them.
Dainfern, South Africa
South Africa has the unwanted distinction of having four of the world’s most crime-ridden cities in the top ten. Pretoria (81.89) is the second most dangerous city in the world and Johannesburg (80.31) is seventh.
Jo’burg is the city of beautiful walls where people fortify their houses, barricade their flats, electrify their fences, buy dogs and guns. Or, they move into cluster-villages, gated, guarded and patrolled round the clock.”
Christopher Hope, The Guardian
Between Pretoria and Johannesburg is Dainfern, an idyllic community surrounded by a four-meter (13-foot) wall with an electric fence on top. Steel rods underneath the fence detect tunnellers and seismic sensors pick up signs of anybody penetrating the perimeter. Closed-circuit cameras sweep the territory and feed banks of monitors in the guard house.
Nearby is Diepsloot (it means “deep ditch”), a shanty town of rutted, dirt streets. This is where the Black Africans, who are the gardeners, maids, and labourers that service Dainfern, live.
In contrast to the opulent mansions of most gated communities, Rosinka, on the outskirts of Moscow, offers modest townhouse accommodation. It is a compound of more than 600 dwellings that, according to The Moscow Times, “Caters not only to well-off foreign families, but also to successful Russians . . .”
The community toots its horn by saying “Rosinka spreads over 134 acres of beautifully landscaped gated territory, with a private lake, indoor tennis courts, Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, large athletic complex, restaurants, walking trails, skate park, dog park and many other amenities.”
A big attraction is the International School of Moscow, which offers a top class, British-style education to the ex-pat community. “Our young residents can walk, bike or scooter to school safely without adult supervision. When the snow comes, Rosinka transforms into a winter wonderland and the children can enjoy a sleigh ride to school.”
The downside is that residents have to do their best to pretend they don’t live in a country whose president is a cold-blooded killer who has his opponents bumped off.
Aamby Valley City, India
Gated neighbourhoods in India are called “colonies,” and there are a lot of them. Wealth is not the only determining factor that puts people behind walls and fences, ethnicity comes into play as well. Members of certain professions also set up their own enclaves; there’s one in New Delhi that was established by journalists in the 1970s.
One of the more luxurious colonies is Aamby Valley City, about 120 km (75 miles) from Mumbai. It has three man-made lakes and the obligatory 18-hole golf course. It is, of course, gated.
Its website gushes that “Here, living spaces don’t just offer outstanding view but redefine the point of view of life.” Whatever that means; perhaps, a translation error.
The community has its own landing strip so the Bollywood stars who favour the place can be whisked off to the film studios when needed. That’s most likely to be in the monsoon season of June to September when the Aamby Valley receives about 4,000 mm (160 inches) of rain.
- One of the great advantages of living in a gated community is that residents are never bothered by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- According to research published in the journal Justice Quarterly, burglaries are not as common in gated communities as they are in non-gated neighbourhoods. However, other crimes, such as domestic partner violence, occur more frequently behind the walls and gatehouses.
- “Crime Index by City 2020 Mid-Year.” Numbeo.com, 2020.
- “Now Everyone Lives in the Townships.” Christopher Hope, The Guardian, February 28, 2005.
- “Family Feud Hits Idyllic Gated Community.” Rachel Nielsen, Moscow Times, July 18, 2012.
- “About Rosinka.” Rosinka.ru, undated.
- “Fortress America: Why Is the US still Building Gated Communities?” Lucy Wallwork, exclusive.multibriefs.com, November 12, 2019.
- “Sahara’s Aamby Valley: A Dream City Caught in Legal Quagmire.” Yogesh Joshi, Hindustan Times, February 7, 2017.
- “ ‘For your Protection’: Gated Cities Around the World – in Pictures.” Chris Michael and Jo Blason, The Guardian, May 5, 2014.
- “Risk of Crime in Gated Communities.” Science Daily, March 20, 2013.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Rupert Taylor
Danny from India on October 21, 2020:
Thanks, Rupert for mentioning the top gated communities. Being India based, I am familiar with the Amby Valley gated housing.