While there was an overall drop in the crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) this week, there are troubling increases in a number of types of violent crimes.
The 2016/2017 crime statistics released by the SAPS showed an overall decrease in crime by 1.8%, with 2.1 million serious crimes reported. Unfortunately, despite this overall drop, there were increases in a number of key crime categories most feared by South Africans.
Murder saw an increase of 1.8%, car hijackings increased by 14.5%, and aggravated robbery increased by 6.4%.
“Given that crime is an unfortunate reality of South African life, these sobering statistics should be seen as an opportunity for citizens to fine-tune and better understand their insurance policies in order to not only better protect themselves, but also mitigate any financial pitfalls as a result of a crime,” said Vera Nagtegaal, the executive head of Hippo.
One of the most important distinctions to understand when protecting your property against burglary, for example, is how your insurer actually defines burglary. Most individuals might use “burglary” and “theft” interchangeably, but in fact, burglary is a theft in which a house-breaking element has taken place.
“Many policies protect holders against burglary, but not against theft,” said Nagtegaal. “This means that an item lost in a mugging might not be covered. To cover valuable items that are portable, you may have to pay an additional fee to specify them in your policy.”
Policyholders should also be aware of the steps they need to take in the wake of a burglary or car hijacking when submitting a claim.
“The ideal process to follow when an incident happens is to immediately contact the police or emergency services in the case of any danger or serious injuries,” said Nagtegaal. “Inform your insurer as soon as possible by either submitting the formal claim telephonically or opt to do so at a later stage, but still within the insurer’s stipulated timeframes. It is important to report the incident to the police as soon as possible – ideally within 24 hours.”
Hippo said that it’s a good idea for policyholders to check whether their insurance covers additional costs like trauma counselling, car rental, Uber vouchers, or hotel rental (if your home is uninhabitable or unsafe).
“When you first buy a policy, it’s easy to forget that there are additional inconveniences or problems that arise after you are a victim of crime. Many policies these days include benefits that help you to deal with these pain points, so also consider an insurer that offers a full range of services, and not just the cost of asset replacement,” said Nagtegaal.
Of course, it would be best to avoid becoming a victim of crime in the first place, and for this reason, Nagtegaal has the following tips to offer:
- Get comparative home security quotes from a number of different companies – and find out from them where they see your property’s weak points and how to deal with them. They may highlight something you had never considered.
- Don’t be lax about using your security system. Even if you are just dashing out to the shops for five minutes, close the doors and windows and put on the alarm. Remember that an insurer could repudiate a claim if your alarm has not been activated, so this step is an important part of your claim process as well as a crime prevention measure.
- Try to secure the area of your house that you sleep in at night, so that you are safe, even if a break-in does occur.
- If you go away, be sure to tell your security company and ask for extra patrols if they offer that service. It’s best to get a house-sitter, or at least a neighbour to come in and turn lights on and off, and remove post that’s cluttering up your postbox to avoid obvious signals that you are away.
- Join your neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and community policing forums so that you are aware of any increases in crimes or suspicious individuals in the area.
- Avoid driving alone at night or in undesirable areas. Always let someone know where you are, and what time you expect to be arriving. Be alert, especially at stop streets and traffic lights. When you approach your driveway, open your gate before driving in so you can’t get blocked in by a hijacker’s vehicle. Be aware of high-accident and high-crime zones on your regular route and avoid those if possible or be extra cautious.
“Nobody likes to dwell on the possibility of becoming a victim of crime, but by doing so, you empower yourself to take the best preventative measures, and also to ensure that you have the right insurance cover in place to protect you should a crime take place,” said Nagtegaal.