Overheard on CNN.com: Gated communities modern necessity or bastion of exclusivity?
The gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, is where Trayvon Martin was shot.
March 28th, 2012
07:54 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Gated communities modern necessity or bastion of exclusivity?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Journalist Bonita Burton wrote an opinion piece about the implications of gated communities similar to the Sanford, Florida, neighborhood where the Trayvon Martin shooting took place. Our readers have much to say about this story.

Florida's problematic gated communities

Video commenter Dyana Glasgow of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, says she lived off and on in Sarasota, Florida, for several years and now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She says she actually feels safer in an urban environment "where people look out for each other," and host events like block parties to interact. She said she wasn't a fan of Florida's gated communities.

"I think it draws attention. You're drawing attention to yourself that you're part of an elite class of people," she said. "It sends a message to anybody who doesn't belong to that community to stay out."

But Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, says he doesn't believe gates fuel paranoia, but rather are a result of it in a tough economy.

EWillies1961: "Why not create your little enclave behind some walls where things can be the way they use to be? Welcome to what many would make America. Instead of a community of people who share their differences to create a much tastier existence, we isolate (ourselves) because of both externalities, paranoia, and you name it. That is the America we must not allow a migration (toward)."

CNN.com reader texas999 echoed that sentiment and said people have to be proactive about their safety.

"These enclaves are not the problem...they are a result of the problem. Our social fabric is failing and we all have to mend it starting with the citizens. Out tax dollars are thin for police protection and getting thinner because we care more about third world countries than our own citizens. The amount of money spent overseas would be better spent at home to ease homelessness, hunger, more education and creating jobs. Until then, I will protect what is mine with every means possible."

This person said their mother's neighborhood was suffering until it became a gated community.

buctrain: "My mother has lived in the same area of Florida for 20 years. Her community was not gated. About 10 years ago Section 8 housing was built in the area. Stolen cars and vandalism became frequent events. Now her community is gated. Crime rate is now zero. Sometimes you just have to protect yourself."

But do the gates work?

Ernie C. Sumrall: "Well said. As a Florida resident and a real estate appraiser for 10 years here, I have witnessed first hand the 'fortress mentality' of gated communities. The actual security feature of the vast majority of these is a joke. The gates serve to frustrate invited guests and do nothing to prevent unwanted entry. It is mostly about building a perception of safety and projecting an aura of exclusivity. To each their own, but I would never live in such an enclave."

Boater39: "As someone who lives in a Florida gated community, exactly, Ernie. Our gate doesn't keep anyone out but our invited guests. We have break-ins all the time. A few times it was the residents that actually did the robbing. Other times, the crooks either just followed someone through the gate or jumped one of our fences. Unless you want to have barbed-wire fences and manned gates, there really is no solution. I don't want to live in a prison. The solution is to throw criminals in jail and not have judges release them for any one of a number of excuses."

Some of our readers said people shouldn't hate on the gate.

srhedd: "I live in a gated community that is the most diverse neighborhood I've ever lived in. It is a wonderful environment. The gates, for us, keep unnecessary traffic out, making the neighborhood somewhat safer for our children to ride their bicycles, play ball, and walk the dog. I find journalists who make blanket statements far more dangerous to our society than the gates at the end of my street."

Hear ye, hear ye. A man's home is his castle, some say.

Renokid: "That is precisely why the Castle Doctrine is so named. If I want to built walls around my castle that is my business. The walls would not be needed if judicial system was not so weak. Police do an adequate job of arresting criminals but our courts just love to slap the perpetrators on the wrist and give them a vaguely worded warning. So I do my best to keep my family safe in spite of our weak court system. It's my family and my castle and I will take care of both."

This person is not a fan of homeowners' associations.

irunner: "This article struck a chord with me. I lived in a similiar gated community in the Sacramento, CA area for 7 years and couldn't wait to escape the HOA and one very paranoid neighbor. I now live in the Tampa Bay area in an open community with NO HOA. Everyone has a dog (mine is a German Shepherd), so security is not an issue. I know all my neighbors. I would never live in another HOA and/or gated community. Having come from a big city (Chicago) with no fences, walls or HOA's, I totally understand how more physical barriers can divide a community in the worse way."

This person said their gated community experience got a little creepy.

vintage274: "I once lived in a mixed-age gated community in Charleston, South Carolina. One gorgeous night in spring, my husband and I decided to take a walk around our rather large circle block at 11:30 PM after the news and before going to bed. Several neighbors on the other side of the circle who did not recognize us called the police, but not before we were aggressively questioned by a man walking his dog. I was surprised and felt a little intimidated at the time. We had moved to the neighborhood for its scenic beauty, not for the gates. I currently live in another gated community for senior citizens 55+ and frequently hear the comment (that someone) 'saw someone who doesn't belong here.' The paranoia displayed when elderly people are visited by what are obvious family members from out of town (especially teens and those in their early 20s) is disconcerting. I blame it on the constant barrage of media coverage of violent crime. Awareness is one thing; hype breeds paranoia."

One reader noted that barriers come in different packages sometimes.

Euridice: "Many urban and suburban 'living spaces' which are not gated, nevertheless contain many houses and apartment buildings with iron gates and grates protecting doors and windows (it's common to see iron gates over ground level basement windows in many such 'living spaces'). The 'dangerous behavior' to which Bonita Burton refers in her article came before the iron gates, gated communities and vigilance. The relationship between vigilance and the threat of crime is like that between umbrellas and rain. More rain, more umbrellas, less rain, fewer umbrellas. More crime, more vigilance (and more locking of cars and home, more alarm systems, more iron gates and grates over doors and windows, more gated communities, etc."

Some are still waiting for their chance.

GigiHa33: "I don't live in a gated community. I hope one day, I will. They are better maintained, and they have social events and a nice pool. In the meantime, I have an alarm system, a metal bat and a gun."

What do you think? Have you ever lived in a gated community? Share your opinion in the comments area below. If you'd like to post a video comment, read this story and click the blue button or visit CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Economy • Florida • Housing • iReport • Overheard on CNN.com • Trayvon Martin • U.S.
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. N Tyler

    He should had did what the dispatcher told him to do gated plated whatever dont not have nothing to do with this.Something else could had been used.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      Troll of hamsta, you've been very busy. Don't think for a milisecond that you scare me.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. Superman

    If people are so dam scared to live in the city ,its simple, get out of my city!!!! Lets live behind all this security and people will not think that i have something to hide ahhh daahhh. Its called PARANOIDE!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lester

    Now that the video has been released from the police dept, it does not show any blood, bruises, or cuts when brought in and hand cuffed. If there were these marks and bruises, the police are required to get him medical attention and take pictures of him so they are not accused of causing bodily harm while in police custody. Where are the reports of these marks and bruises, blood and broken nose while in custody...Where are the dept's pictures while in custody. So far, NONE..

    March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pete

    Just watched Brooke's live report from Sanford, FL. the gentleman made two errors in his report. There are two witness(roommates) who heard Trayvon's cry for help, and witness George Zimmerman on top of Trayvon before the fatal shot. He reported otherwise. There are witnesses to this cold blooded murder. Brooke, I love u , but you have to get the facts correct. Get it right Brooke.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dana

    They are what they are, if your visiting expect to be stopped if they have neighborhood watch and Expect to answer Questions and don't Act Gangster, simple. White or Black.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      You are correct Dana. Gated communities are NOT public property! Its considered PRIVATE property. If you were in my house(private property) I have a right to ask you why you are here, and a right to demand you leave if I do not want you here.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. loupgarous

    It's not "cold-blooded murder" if the person you shoot's beating you. The only racism involved is in the Martin family, the press's and the President's suppression of this fact, and their orchestration of a racial witch hunt – calling for the criminal prosecution of someone who would have a medal awarded to him were all the facts of his case known.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Silver Bullet

      There is no evidence at all that GZ was beaten. None. Although Trayvon wasn't a saint, neither is GZ, and he also has a history of violence. Stop pretending that what he did was justified.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • kamanakapu

      What case are you commenting on? Zimmerboy claimed Martin smashed his head on the pavement several times yet the police took no pictures of the alleged injuries. Zimmerboy also alleged that Martin punched him on the nose and broke his nose with blood splattering all over (his shirt) yet the police...AGAIN!...did not take any pictures of his nose either!?!? So where you coming from, loupgarous?? Which side you on? There are only two sides to this travesty: the obvious or absurd.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. loupgarous

    Let's stop pretending that the issue is race here. The issue is the family of someone who tried to get away with beating someone in cold blood being shot, and his family lacking the character to apologize to his intended victim, choosing instead to try and cash in on the event. The Martin family should be ashamed of their son and themselves. Everyone who has tried to make this a racial event should be ashamed, up through Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the New Black Panther Party and the President – the first openly racist president we've had in this country since Woodrow Wilson.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Silver Bullet

      Really? They're all guilty if hiding something. I find your comment about Obama being racist is as disturbing as it is hilarious. Get a clue.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Foolish

      Face the truth.

      April 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kamanakapu

      The first two openly racist presidents of the united states was George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson!! And as far as this case goes this is racist case because this is a racist nation. What, than, is a racist nation?
      I define a racist nation as one in which the dominant race believes that they are separate from, and superior to, the other races (natives, blacks, spaniards, asian) living on that same land. For thousands of years the white man has contended that their ancestors did not come from africa but they came from somewhere else (i.e., another planet) and for that reason the white man are not part of the afro-centric (human) race but are of a separate, distinct and superior race. The ancient european females, however, insisted that their ancestresses came from africa and that the white males were lying through their teeth.

      So where in the universe do you claim your ancestors came from, loupgarous?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lorraine

    MY heart goes out to the Martin Family, however Trayvon had as much right to :Stand His Ground" as Zimmerman could have been a burglar ready to rob or hurt Trayvon since Trayvon did not know who he was or why this "white looking man was following him. Standing your ground also means meeting force with force. Trayvon did not have a weapon therefore zimmerman is not able to stand his ground because he went out of his way to follow an innocent boy walking down the street .zimmerman does not own the neighbor and was self appointed .Trayvon had as much right to be there as zimmerman who went out of his way looking for trouble.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
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    You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart. louboutins

    August 17, 2012 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
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