There are nearly 676 burglaries and just over 61 house robberies a day in South Africa according to SA Police Service’s 2016/17 crime figures.
Burglaries are defined as break-ins when the victim is not at home or not directly threatened. A robbery is when the victims are present and under threat.
With 246 654 burglaries and 22 343 house robberies between April 2016 and March 2017, securing your property is a sensible investment. It could also save you money on your insurance premiums.
Most security experts agree that it’s almost impossible for the average householder to completely secure their property against determined criminals, but there are some practical steps you can take to make it less vulnerable.
Install an alarm system, linked to an armed-response company
While it’s always a good idea to get competitive quotes, choose a reputable company that’s active in your area. If there is more than one, ask neighbours, the local neighbourhood watch or the community policing forum (CPF) for their recommendations.
Most insurance companies will reduce your premiums if you have an alarm and armed-response service, in addition to basic security. Bear in mind, however, that claims can be denied if you don’t activate the alarm every time you leave the home.
Fit quality security gates and burglar bars
Securing areas of the house, such as bedrooms, with security gates will make you less vulnerable when you’re at home. When you aren’t they can also prevent burglars freely accessing areas where your valuables are stored.
If you do decide to fit security gates, it’s worth installing a quality product. Cheap, poorly fitted gates can be bent or broken and bypassed, leaving you out of pocket and probably with additional damage to repair. Again deal with a reputable supplier or ask for advice from your security company, CPF or even your insurance company.
The same applies to burglar bars. Cheap, poorly fitted bars not only look ugly, but probably won’t do much to deter burglars. It’s worth spending a bit more to fit an insurance-approved product, that’s set into the brickwork rather than the window frame and which can’t easily be unscrewed, cut, ripped out or bent back.
Let your insurance company know when you’ve fitted the gates and burglar bars as well as any additional features such as pin locks on sliding doors. You may be entitled to a discount on your premiums.
Check your perimeter security
Wall-top electric fencing is a common first line of perimeter security, but can be ineffective if the wrong kind of fence is chosen or it is poorly installed. The wiring and structure of the fence, the height, number of zones required and lifespan all have to be considered, but are often overlooked. The structure of the fence is determined by the height, quality and width of the wall to which it is attached. Not all walls are suitable for wall-top electric fencing. Ideally the wall should be more than two metres high and consist of a double row of bricks.
Choosing the correct installer is crucial and it’s always a good idea to get several quotes. Look for a reputable, qualified consultant who provides a proper technical specification.
Fit good window and door locks
Builders and developers sometimes try to save money by fitting cheap locks. These can be broken by hitting them with a hammer, using a crowbar or even a hard enough kick. Fitting locks with the kite mark BS3621 (the BS stands for British Standard) or insurance-approved locks to exterior doors can prevent this happening.
The first step should always be to make sure you are fitting the lock to a sturdy door. There’s little point in spending money on a good lock if the door itself is flimsy, the door or frame is rotten or the hinges are poorly fitted or damaged.
Another way burglars gain access is by prying open windows or removing sliding doors from their tracks. There are a number of ready-made devices that you can fit to make it more difficult to do this. These are usually available from your local hardware store and are fairly easy to install.
Again it’s worth letting your insurance company know about any security related alterations you’ve made, as there may be a cost-saving benefit.
Use some common sense
There are some security precautions you can take that won’t cost you much, but could help to deter criminals.
- Don’t take your time – you’re vulnerable when you enter and leave your property. If possible try to vary the times when you come and go. When you do, don’t waste time in the driveway. If you have an automatic door or gates, press the button as soon as you can and, if possible, wait in the road while it opens or closes. That way you have some room to escape if something happens. Don’t leave your car idling in the driveway. If there’s a car you don’t recognise following you when you return home, go around the block. If it keeps following you drive to a police station or a safe area.
- Clear out and light up hiding places – cut back trees, plants or shrubs that could provide hiding places. Fit lights with motion detectors to illuminate dark areas where criminals could conceal themselves.
- Think about what you throw away – leaving the box your plasma screen or new laptop came in lying outside for the rubbish collectors could be an invitation to criminals. Rather dispose of packaging from expensive items by cutting it up and only putting in the rubbish on collection day.
- Put your stuff away – this applies both inside and outside. Leaving tools or ladders lying around only makes things easier for burglars. Similarly leaving a laptop near an open window, even if you have burglar bars, may be all the opportunity a criminal needs.
Investing in home security has the dual benefits of giving you some peace of mind and could save you some money on your insurance premiums each month.