Protect your home from intruders
Here are some tips to avoid being a victim of a home robbery if you are going away for the holidays.
Margriet and Stefan returned home after a week away to find cupboards flung open and the floor strewn with garbage. After dashing into the house to check to see if any equipment and valuables were missing, Stefan discovered all the audio and visual equipment was taken, while Margriet found her jewellery box empty. It was also very emotionally upsetting that all the built-in cupboards were open and personal effects and clothes manhandled.
What was even more worrying was the fact that it looked as though the robbery had only recently taken place and the couple could have quite easily walked in while the robbers were still in the house. "We don't have expensive things, but the intrusiveness of having a stranger in the house is upsetting," said Margriet.
The crime rate continues unabated in South Africa, especially during the holiday season when many leave their homes empty and head for the coast. Wherever you live, burglary is a crime of opportunity. Criminals are always on the lookout for the property with the least resistance.
Here's how you can make your house less vulnerable:
Reinforce door locks
Strong locks will make it harder for intruders to gain access to a home. Even when you are a home - lock your doors. If your door locks are of inferior quality have these replaced with stronger locks, or add a second lock as an additional security measure.
The door lock (dead bolt) should bed firmly into the strike plate mounted on the door frame. In many instances builders install these using shorter screws, making it very easy to kick in the door. Replace short screws with longer ones for peace of mind.
Seal sidelights and glass panels
Many older homes have glass panels and sidelights at the front door, but burglars simply have to smash the glass to turn the door lock and enter your home. To overcome this problem install security film on all glass panels that are not fitted with burglar bars. This resists a lot of pressure, so if someone throws a giant rock at the glass, the glass may crack but will stay in place, and the rock will bounce off the window.
Light up your exterior
Solar-powered motion-activated lights won't leave you in the dark - even when the power goes out - and lighting up the exterior of your home is a great deterrent, since no criminal wants to be seen. Place sensor lights in strategic locations where the lights switch on immediately when there is movement in the garden, on shaded paths, or on a driveway. Builders have a solar-powered motion-activated light that costs around R600.
Secure patio doors
Sliding patio doors are the easiest to breach because their locks can be damaged without too much effort, especially if burglar gates are not installed on these doors. Most sliding doors can easily be lifted off of their rollers and out of the frame. Secure them easily with a security bar, a dowel rod or put a patio door lock in the track to prevent the doors from being removed.
Add a deterrent
If you are considering the installation of a home-security system know that a high percentage of criminals check for home alarm systems. Even if you can't afford one, window stickers or wall signage may also be a deterrent, as long as they're believable, and it doesn't cost much to have professional signs made up. If you do have a security system installed, make an arrangement with a close friend or neighbour that they handle any alarms, false or otherwise, until your return.
Pretend you're at home
If you're going on holiday make sure to suspend any deliveries. Let your neighbours know, and inform the Body Corporate, so that they can keep an eye on your home. There are plenty of options for fitting timers for lamps that switch on at night while you are away, or install a motion-activated light in your home as this will alert neighbours to any illegal activity during your absence.
Don't forget to lock up the garage
If access to your home can be gained via a garage, don't leave the remote for your garage door in any vehicles left behind. People often don't secure the door from the house to the garage, and if someone can get inside the garage and into your home, they have all the time in the world to clean out your house and fill up a vehicle without anyone in the neighbourhood being suspicious.
Keep trees trimmed
Large trees with overhanging branches offer any burglar with the cover needed to break in, unnoticed. Trim any branches that fall less than two metres above ground level and keep shrubs to a maximum height of one metre to prevent them blocking windows or sight lines.
Don't advertise your vacation
Recent statistics show that too many people post their vacation details on Twitter, Facebook or make use of Geotagging. If geotagging is enabled on your phone and you post a photo with a caption such as 'enjoying our holiday at... ,' a burglar may be able to find out where you live while knowing there is ample time to break in.