How to protect your home from intruders

There is little doubt that South Africa is among the most beautiful countries in the world, but the reality is that many people here have either been affected by crime directly or at least know of someone who has.

“We as South Africans are privileged to be able to call this unique and diverse country our home,” said Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX Southern Africa. “Unfortunately there is one negative aspect that plagues so many living in this country and that is the crime.”

“With the high levels of crime experienced in this country, South African home buyers are some of the most security conscious in the world,” said Goslett. “In fact, security has become a major determining factor in where people choose to purchase their homes. As a result properties with top-end security features or those located in security estates are highly sought-after and often fetch a higher price than other types of properties.”

According to Goslett, while homes within security estates generally provide a greater return on investment over the long term, these kinds of homes are not affordable to everyone. However this does not mean that home owners have to compromise on their safety and become soft targets.

He noted that there are a number of ways in which homeowners can increase their home’s security and deter criminals:

Make it as hard as possible to break in

Intruders will generally target homes that they perceive as being easy and quick to get into. The more time it will take to break into a property, the less likely it will happen.

“It is best not to leave anything lying around that could assist someone to break into the home, such as ladders or gardening tools. Ideally it is also a good idea to keep foliage and shrubs cut back to reduce the number of areas where intruders can hide. If there are no lights near the entrance areas of the property, putting up lights will make these area more visible and aid in deterring intruders,” advised Goslett.

He added that entry points such as garage doors should be locked at all times, even if the car is not parked inside. The garage is an area of the home where intruders know they can find items that will help them gain entrance to the home.

“While not all homeowners will have the facilities, a trained guard-dog is an excellent deterrent and household companion. It is vital that homeowners tell their children and domestic workers to identify people before allowing them to gain access to the home,” Goslett said.

Visible and physical protection is best

Security experts say that the best form of deterrent is a visible, physical barrier, such as palisading or a good quality electric fence around the perimeter of the property. As a precautionary measure, Goslett said that homeowners can use motion sensors and beams to provide a back-up to the primary physical barrier. Ideally all security barriers and entry points should be connected to an alarm system as an early detection device to alert the necessary people.

Don’t let people know you are away

Most intruders would prefer to avoid confrontation, so would rather break into a property while the occupants are not home.

“Homeowners who are going away for a holiday should avoid leaving any tell-tale signs that no-one is home, such as uncollected post or newspapers.  An unoccupied home will be more vulnerable to possible intrusion,” said Goslett.

“Timers on the lighting inside and outside the home will give the appearance that people are there. Provided it is safe to do so, a car can be parked in the property where it is visible, which will also give the impression that someone is home.”

If homeowners are at home, that should ensure that they always answer their intercom or buzzer. On occasion criminals will check to see if the occupants of a property are there by ringing the intercom – so never ignore it, irrespective of the time of day or night. An unanswered intercom could be seen as an invitation to an unwelcome home invasion. If the intercom does not work, remove or repair it as soon as possible.

Don’t leave the keys in the usual places

According to crime reports, often criminals will take the vehicles along with the household contents. In order to avoid this from happening, any vehicle keys or spare keys should be hidden or kept in an unusual place – especially if the home’s occupants are away on holiday.

“Although it is convenient, it is best to not have keys on key hooks or counters where they are easily seen, but rather put them out of sight and in a safe place,” said Goslett.

Community involvement

A great way to get to know the neighbours and assist in keeping the community safer is by joining the local community policing forum or neighbourhood watch. In these organisations time and responsibility is shared among residents to make the community a safer place to stay.

“It is better to prevent criminal activity from affecting your home, than having to deal with the aftermath.  While it may be difficult to completely ensure that a home is never broken into, taking the necessary precautions is the right step toward making the home and its occupants safer,” Goslett said.

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How to protect your home from intruders