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The Importance of Securing Vacant Lots and Decommissioned Schools Today

In today’s rapidly changing urban landscape, the issue of securing vacant lots and decommissioned schools has become a pressing concern. These properties, once bustling with activity, now stand empty and vulnerable, posing significant security and safety challenges to surrounding communities. Ensuring these spaces are secure is not only a matter of protecting property but also of maintaining community safety, preventing crime, and fostering neighborhood revitalization.

The Growing Problem of Vacant Properties

Over the past decade, numerous schools and other large properties have been decommissioned across the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that approximately 755 schools were closed annually between the 2010-11 and 2021-22 school years (NCES). Major cities, such as Philadelphia, have seen significant closures, with plans to shutter 15% of its district-run schools in a single year (The Pew Charitable Trusts). These closures leave behind buildings that often fall into disrepair, attracting criminal activity and becoming eyesores in their communities.

Crime Rates and Safety Concerns

Vacant properties are closely associated with increased crime rates. A study in Pittsburgh found that the rate of violent crime within 250 feet of a vacant property is 15% higher than in areas further away. Moreover, longer periods of vacancy exacerbate crime rates, with risks of arson, vandalism, and other illegal activities being particularly high. The U.S. Fire Administration reported 28,000 fires annually in vacant residences between 2006 and 2008, with a significant portion being intentionally set (HUD User) (Center for Community Progress).

Studies have shown that vacant properties can quickly become hotspots for vandalism, arson, and illegal activities. Neighborhoods where vacant lots were cleaned up experienced a 29 percent reduction in gun violence, 22 percent decrease in burglaries, and 30 percent drop in nuisances like noise complaints and illegal dumping. (Penn Today). Left vacant, these properties can also harbor illegal activities such as drug use and squatting, which pose further risks to community safety.

Community Impact

The presence of unsecured vacant lots and decommissioned schools can have a profound negative impact on local communities. These properties can decrease the overall aesthetic appeal of neighborhoods, leading to lower property values and deterring potential investments in the area. This phenomenon, often referred to as “blight,” can create a cycle of decline, where the lack of investment leads to further neglect and deterioration.

Research has consistently shown that vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties reduce the value of surrounding properties. In Cleveland, properties within 500 feet of a vacant, tax-delinquent, and foreclosed property lost 9.4% of their value (Center for Community Progress). This depreciation can significantly affect homeowners’ equity and personal wealth, leading to financial instability and reduced quality of life for residents.

Moreover, vacant properties can pose direct safety risks. They can become dangerous playgrounds for children, who may be attracted to the empty buildings out of curiosity. The structural integrity of these buildings may be compromised, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. The presence of these unsafe structures can also create a sense of fear and insecurity among residents, reducing their quality of life and sense of community cohesion.

RIO 360 profile empty lot 900x506 1
RIO 360 and RIO 180 can be deployed just about anywhere.

Public Health and Well-being

Abandoned properties can harm public health by exposing residents to dangerous toxins like mold, lead, and asbestos. They also contribute to mental health issues such as stress, depression, and elevated rates of intentional injury due to the visual blight and sense of insecurity they create. These health impacts are particularly pronounced in low-income neighborhoods where vacant lots are more prevalent​ (Center for Community Progress)​.

Municipal Costs

Local governments incur substantial costs in maintaining and securing vacant properties. For example, Philadelphia spends over $20 million annually to maintain its vacant properties, which includes boarding up structures, cutting grass, and removing trash. The city also loses an estimated $5 million annually in tax revenue due to these properties​ (HUD User)​​ (Center for Community Progress)​. Similar costs are reported in cities like Toledo and Detroit, which further strain municipal budgets.

The Role of Advanced Security Solutions

Securing vacant lots and decommissioned schools is essential to mitigate these risks and promote community safety. Traditional security measures, such as physical guards and basic surveillance, may not be sufficient to address the complex challenges these properties present. This is where advanced security solutions, such as those provided by Robotic Assistance Devices Inc. (RAD), come into play.

RAD’s RIO units, for example, offer a comprehensive security solution for vacant properties. These solar-powered security trailers are equipped with high-definition cameras and advanced AI capabilities, providing continuous surveillance and real-time threat detection. The deployment of RIO units can deter criminal activity, monitor for unauthorized access, and provide rapid response to incidents, ensuring that these properties remain secure.

Mark Folmer, CPP, PSP, FSyI, President of RAD, highlights the importance of such technologies: “Decommissioned schools and other abandoned properties present a specific set of security and safety concerns, and our RIO units are uniquely equipped to handle these issues with their autonomous response capabilities and real-time threat detection.”

Case Studies and Success Stories

The effectiveness of advanced security solutions in securing vacant properties is well-documented. RAD has published several case studies detailing how their technologies have helped eliminate instances of theft, trespassing and loitering at retail centers, hospital campuses, multi-family communities, car rental locations and construction sites across the country. 

For instance, the ROSA units, which are part of RAD’s security solutions, have proven effective in real-world scenarios. These compact, self-contained portable security solutions can be installed and activated in about 15 minutes. They include AI-driven security analytics for human, firearm, and vehicle detection, license plate recognition, and responsive digital signage and audio messaging. Such capabilities ensure comprehensive monitoring and rapid response to any security threats.

The Future of Vacant Property Security

As urban areas continue to evolve, the need for effective security solutions for vacant properties will only grow. Cities must prioritize the security of these spaces to prevent them from becoming liabilities. Advanced security technologies, like those offered by RAD, represent a proactive approach to addressing these challenges, providing robust, reliable, and cost-effective solutions.

Investing in the security of vacant lots and decommissioned schools not only protects these properties but also supports broader community goals. It helps to create safer, more attractive neighborhoods, encourages investment, and promotes a sense of security and well-being among residents. By leveraging cutting-edge security technologies, we can turn these potential problem areas into secure, monitored spaces that contribute positively to their communities.

In conclusion, the importance of securing vacant lots and decommissioned schools cannot be overstated. With the right security measures in place, these properties can be protected from criminal activities and other risks, helping to foster safer, more vibrant communities.

Are you interested in learning more about how RAD’s security robots can improve the safety and security of your facility? Don’t hesitate, contact us today to schedule a consultation and see for yourself the benefits of implementing RAD’s innovative technology. Our team is ready to answer any questions you may have and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to upgrade your security system – contact us today!