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What is happening is not only increasing fear of the poor, but also the privatization of public space, which is given an added push by government cut-backs. Public streets are moved indoors into malls and become private preserves. Parks and streets in gated communities are barred to anyone who does not live there. User fees are charged for the use of other parks and public facilities so that, in practice, they become the property of those who can afford the fees.
Privatization of the home sector begins with high fences, heavy gates and barred windows, then proceeds to the hiring of private police to patrol the neighborhood. When that still does not produce the attitude of security, the next step is gated communities: whole subdivisions, entire condominium developments, or apartment complexes protected from the outside world by armed guards or electronic security.
Ironically, the gates only provide an illusion of security, as the authors of “Fortress America” demonstrate both through the testimony of interviewees and by demonstrating the penetrability of gates by sneaking through them. Moreover, while residents idealize the gates as a means of creating community, they find that gates can actually promote divisiveness, as residents argue about gate policy and homeowner's association policies. More ominously, Blakely and Snyder argue that gates lead to increasing polarization, us-vs-them attitude of citizens, leaving cities deprived.
Among the deprived and polarized are children. They are usually denied a variety of culture as many gated communitites tend not to be richly diverse in class or ethnic standing. This deficiency of being raised surrounded by diversity can play a key role in the increase of feelings of apathy toward those of different ethnic or social background; and in extreme cases, can lead to school violence.
Young people who grow up together in the streets and in the poorer neighborhoods are more likely than others to develop attitudes based on respect, and on the pleasure of being together. Gated communitites have a tendency to become inward-looking, withdrawing into itself, combined with a rude, exclusive and stigmatizing attitude with regard to particular groups or individuals who are perceived as threats; or increased social control by one population group over another.
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This effect is dangerous when the principle is established that the residents of a private space attempt to define the order which must reign in a public space bordering to their privately owned space . Children would be hard pressed to understand this concept of social class, and may be unwilling to participate in classroom or school social setting when the misunderstood notion of social standing is embedded. This is why there must be adequate articulation between the community level (equal between public and private) of participation and the schools.
Gated developments are one of a generalized American disenchantment with the quality of public life. Persons that object to the “privatization” of communitites do not fail to recognize the homeowner's yard as private property but become aggravated at being exempt from streets, parks, and other spaces that are normally part of the civic realm.
Privatization of traditionally public spaces and services is a central concern. Private communities are providing their own security, street maintenance, parks, recreation, garbage collection and other services, leaving the poor and less well-to-do dependent on the ever-reduced services of city and county governments.
The separation of gated communities, their privatization of public space, also reduces social contact, weakening the bonds of mutual responsibility that are formed through the regular interactions of community living. Many residents say they're taking care of themselves and so lessen the public burden. In the growing number of places where gated communities are the norm, not the exception, this perspective results in a system those who use public services, and those who augment or replace public services with private ones.
Gates send a message that, repeated often enough, is adverse to the spirit of an open, democratic society. What these people want is not community but privacy and security. No matter how affluent they are, they dread the world outside the gates. Guardhouses, electronic surveillance systems and physical barriers provide reassurance but also reinforce the sense that one is surrounded by a declining society.