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A neighborhood watch sign is seen in front of The Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol on March 28, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Florida ranks second behind California in the number of gated communities in the nation. Marketed as secure status enclaves, opponents argue that walls and gates foster a fortress-like mentality with very little pedestrian activity that doesn’t necessarily reduce crime.
Gated community. Secluded, intimate neighborhood. Celebration, USA. Whatever you want to call them, they continue to rise in popularity, with a 53 percent growth rate between 2001 and 2009.
Critics argue that gated communities promote “bunker” mentalities, or us-versus-them thinking, with “them” equaling “new immigrants, blacks, young people, renters, non-property owners and people perceived to be poor.”
Worse, gated communities are said to create a nation-within-a-nation phenomenon, as they tend to have their own set of security and police forces. Some have even pointed to George Zimmerman’s decision to shoot Trayvon Martin as exacerbated by the phenomenon.
Proponents of such communities claim that they ease residents’ states of mind and cause no real harm.
Do you believe in the idea of a “gated community mentality’?
Robert Lang, director, Brookings Mountain West, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Professor of Urban Affairs; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution