You’ve planned your holiday meticulously, your route is mapped, and everything packed. You’ve arranged for someone to water the plants, emptied the fridge, set the alarm and your house is locked up tighter than Pollsmoor prison. It’s the festive season, and nothing can ruin your well-deserved December break.
While you’re sipping Mai-Thais on a beach somewhere, barefoot and blissfully oblivious, intruders pop in unannounced back home, and start helping themselves to your belongings - ticking off items on their personal Christmas shopping lists.
By the time armed response shows up, they’ve derailed your gate, busted the lock on the back door and cleared you out before you could order another cocktail.
Crime statistics spike exponentially during the festive season, especially property crimes such as house burglaries. These are opportunistic crimes, and when the cat’s away the proverbial mouse will play.
You can’t ignore the realities of crime during this time, and can’t stay home standing guard all the time, peeking through the curtains in paranoia – all you can do is take the best measures possible, and take control of your security.
So you have electric fencing, security beams outside and an alarm system all linked to armed response. While these are effective to a point, there are flaws with the system in that response is often delayed, often as a result of frequent false alarms.
Short of building a moat or placing nefarious booby traps around the perimeter, what can you do to decrease your security risk this festive season?
The first step is to get up to speed with how criminals think, know what they look out for and when you are vulnerable. When writing his book Home Invasion: Robbers Disclose What You Should Know, Professor Rudolph Zinn interviewed a group of convicted criminals to find out from the horse’s mouth how they target people.
His chats with these bad boys revealed pretty frightening bits of information. Burglars prefer high walls, with no visibility from the street. They pick a neighbourhood and go from house to house ringing doorbells until they find a house with nobody home. They love sliding doors, because it allows very easy entry.
Invariably, some or more of the factors a burglar favours will apply to you. If you don’t have a high wall, you’ll have a sliding door or multiple access points or live within easy access to main roads. You may have a perimeter alarm, but no dog and a sliding door, and nobody answered the intercom.
Security experts recommend changing your normal intercom system, to one of the new systems which connect a call to your mobile phone when the doorbell rings, so you can answer any time even when not at home.
Another popular option is CCTV surveillance, which firstly acts as a deterrent but also ups the chances of arrest if an attack has happened. Technology has advanced quite a bit, making it possible to monitor your property remotely, via a mobile device. Vox Telecom’s Guardian Eye Lite solution for example, allows you to monitor your property in real time, with live footage and push video accessed via an app on your phone. The system even has two way audio communication, so you can listen and talk directly to intruders in your home. This means you can make an immediate decision on whether to alert armed response, negate a false alarm or let someone into your premises.
While there is always a possibility of your house being targeted, your best defence is to make sure your home is the least optimal option for criminals to gain access to.
Check that all your equipment is working properly, make sure someone collects your mail and visits your property regularly. If your house will be completely unattended the whole time, make sure you are in contact with your neighbours so they can alert you to any strange activity, and consider video surveillance which you can monitor while you are away. The more barriers you have, the more likely it is they will choose somewhere else.
So before you leave your house unattended this festive season, consider your risks and find the security solution that will make your home the least appealing to the criminally inclined opportunist.