2007-04-07 : Take responsibility for your own security

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2007-04-07 : Take responsibility for your own security

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2007-04-11 08:01

Page 13 of Canvas section, on Business page, this article is found in the Saturday Star; email address for the letters page is : saturdayletters@inl.co.za fax no. (011)834-7520 post: Box 1014, Johannesburg 2000.

Take responsibility for your own security

By David Pincus

Reports in newspapers and what one hears from other sources hint that the legend, a home is a person's castle, is on the verge of being relegated to the scrapheap. The sad truth is, criminals are getting cleverer and more sophisticated, and apart from a small, committed number of dedicated and skilled policemen who are employed in solving major crimes, our police force is under resourced, a significant percentage of its members are within a toucher of being labelled illiterate and many are there basically to collect their pay.

They have no pride in the force. This means that to turn the tables on criminals and reduce the incidence of crime in homes - we're not suggesting it's possible to eliminate it - homeowners will have to become involved in protecting not only their own homes, but also their suburbs and neighbourhoods.

Many stand-alone houses are at risk, and the days when one could trust all secure complexes are history. Many in the security industry believe the so-called guards at the gates of some of them sell robber gangs vital information, like who is home, who leaves an unbarred upstairs window open when the family are eating, and who parks his car without switching on the alarm.

A gang of three thugs recently attacked an acquaintance of ours who lives in one of those estates just after he had installed a safe. They told him they knew he had a new safe and wanted to know where it was. He showed it to them and even gave them the key, but when they opened it and found nothing in it, they beat him severely and left, taking his cellphone, his watch, a ring and less than R100 he had in his wallet.

Their appearance - and disappearance - without being detected by "security" raises questions. The answers point to collusion with the gate guards: Who told them about the safe, how did they get into and leave the complex without being spotted? The answers point to collusion even though the gate officials swore blind they didn't let them in and didn't see them leave.

They even suggested they climbed over the five metre perimeter wall, but no telltale marks were found, and anyone leaping from that height onto solid earth stands an excellent chance of injuring himself, yet none of them were injured.

And how did they get out? It may be possible to fall from 5 metres without injury, but not even the best high jumper in the world can leap 5 metres; no ladder was found, and the shock wires at the top of the wall were intact, which indicates they used the gate both ways.

Realty 1 International Property Group CEO Mike Bester agrees with Dolf Scheepers, managing director of Thorburn Security Solutions (Inland), who said recently that a better way than relying on paid and sometimes suspect security officials is for citizens to organise themselves into community forums, and even to form Article 21 companies that will manage security services in residential areas. Neighbourhood watches have proved their worth from a deterrent and reactive perspective."

Private investigator and security adviser Mike Bolhuis says some basic steps must be taken. These include being totally aware of your surroundings, and getting to know who lives in your neighbourhood - even who is sitting under the trees in parks or walking in the street.

This may sound invasive, but, he says, people need to know more about their employees than they do. They should have copies of their ID documents, contact numbers of their family and friends, and photographs of them.

He suggests communities carry video or cellphone cameras and get footage of loiterers, which they should circulate throughout the neighbourhood.

Had the SAPS been functioning as it should, there would be no need for all this - which some would label paranoia - but as we stated earlier, it isn't.

To be fair, however, not even the world's best police force can or has eradicated crime completely. There are far more homes than there are police officers, so it's important for homeowners to do everything possible to make their homes secure.

Burglar alarms are necessary, but the best strategy may be to start a neighbourhood watch, and forethought and preventive measures contribute significantly to ensuring safety.

All homes are at risk. Thieves will go for expensive items, but they can be tempted by less valuable items if they believe they will be easy to sell.

Published on the web by Star on April 7, 2007.
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