Ensuring proper perimeter security, keeping alarms maintained, and building good relationships with neighbours and community watch groups are among the best measures you can take to protect your home against criminals.
This is according to Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann, who recently spoke to MyBroadband about the increase in armed robberies at South African homes in the early part of 2021.
The latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Services showed a 7.6% rise in armed robberies at residential premises in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the same period last year.
While burglaries saw a significant decline of 20.5%, there were still more than 40,000 such reported incidents in the first three months — about 444 per day across South Africa.
Bartmann told MyBroadband that Fidelity has also recorded an alarming surge in armed robberies among its home and business customers across Johannesburg and Pretoria in recent months.
He emphasised it was essential that people remained vigilant at all times.
“Act as if you are being watched and take all necessary precautions,” Bartmann advised.
Bartmann said that most of the burglaries and robberies over the last period seemed opportunistic, while there was an increase in day time robberies in particular.
“Following customers home from the shops has also increased again,” he added.
Bartmann said it was important to understand that the increase in remote working — which means more people are at home during the day — would not necessarily deter criminals.
He said there were more instances of criminals catching people unaware during the day when they were at home, as most people don’t expect this to happen while the household is busy and awake.
“An occupied property comes with risk just as an unoccupied property does,” Bartmann warned.
“Fortunately, criminals appear to be in and out for easy pickings, but there is always the worry of personal injury.”
He explained there were a number of increased risks due to people being at home throughout the day, including:
- Many people coming and going more often, which could lead to doors, security doors or gates being left open.
- More cars than usual are likely also on the premises during the day.
- Dogs are inside with the owners rather than outside on patrol.
- There is a greater probability of fake beggars and false service providers at the gate.
Bartmann said the best approach to assessing your home’s security was to start at the perimeter of the property and work your way in.
“Think like a criminal and evaluate whether your fencing, wall, garden, windows, doors, shed, garage, and other areas have weaknesses a criminal can exploit,” he stated.
Bartmann recommended that basic security measures and routines be implemented, whether people were at home or not.
He advised that home owners and tenants ensured the following:
- Have proper perimeter security with a sturdy gate and lock.
- Arm your alarm whenever you leave home.
- Ensure windows are properly closed and doors locked.
- If someone is at home they must know what to do and who to contact in an emergency.
- Ensure security doors are locked at all times and the keys removed.
- Arm parts of the home you are not using.
- Arm garden beams while you are indoors.
- Keep a panic button with you at all times.
- Test your alarm and panic buttons regularly.
- Have a good relationship with neighbours as they can be your eyes and ears when you are not home.
- Join a suburb WhatsApp group to learn about crime trends in your area.
- Support your local Community Police Forum (CPF) and neighbourhood watch.
- Be on the lookout for suspicious persons and vehicles you know don’t belong in your suburb and report these to your private security provider or the police.
- Let your small dogs sleep inside.
In addition to these measures, Bartmann said that domestic workers and gardening employees should be well vetted and have a good grasp of your security protocols.
“Domestic staff must always keep security gates on doors locked — they may not hear an intruder over the noise of the vacuum or know that someone has entered the house while they are in the backyard,” Bartmann said.
“The alarm system must always be armed when they leave the house; even if it is only for a few minutes.”
Bartmann warned that load-shedding could have a severe impact on home security systems and protection.
In addition to power cuts, winter itself will bring increased periods of darkness, opening up more opportunities for criminals.
“As we tend to gather everyone indoors earlier and perhaps change the times we go to gym or walk the dog, security systems like garden beams and sensor lights must also be working properly.
“Most people still need to leave for work and school at the same time, regardless of whether the sun is up or not.
“To stay safe, be more vigilant in the early morning and at dusk, when you come home,” Bartmann said.
He also recommended getting a professional to check the tensioning of electric fencing, as it tends to shrinks in colder weather and this can cause false alarms.
The cold also brings an increased risk of home fires.
Bartman provided these additional tips for staying safe during the winter:
- Check that your curb-side house number is still visible in case of an emergency. This can save critical minutes for the emergency response team.
- If you bring your dogs inside, ask your security company to partition your alarm system in such a way that it still offers an early warning system with pets in the house.
- Ensure back-up power supplies are in place to keep lighting, gate motors, and security systems in working condition at all times.
- Set external beams in the early evening once everyone is home.
- Be vigilant when leaving and arriving home. Criminals take advantage of the longer hours of darkness in winter and are not afraid of the cold.
- Ensure your security service provider has your most up-to-date contact details.