Security tips for homeowners over the festive season

The latest South African crime statistics had good news for homeowners, with housebreaking and home robbery both down by a significant margin.

While that’s certainly cause for celebration, Tony Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group, urges homeowners not to become complacent when it comes to home security – particularly with the holiday season on the horizon.

“Crime tends to come in waves, and the festive season is often a high point,” he says. “Criminals go Christmas shopping too, but they use crowbars, not credit cards.”

Keeping up with the latest security trends can be a little overwhelming, but Clarke suggests starting off with the following tips.

Know your neighbours – Getting to know the people who live around you is invaluable in terms of security. The more you know about normal neighbourhood activities, the easier it is to spot something out of the ordinary.

Clarke suggests organising a WhatsApp group (or similar) for your block to make it easier to notify people if something odd is taking place.

Don’t advertise your belongings – If you’re planning on spending your Christmas bonus on a new TV or tech toy, Clarke recommends taking the packaging straight to your nearest municipal dump.

“Houses are targeted based on the perceived value of the goods they have inside,” he explains. “Leaving that flat-screen box on your pavement on bin day is like setting up a neon sign saying, ‘Pick Me.”

Invest in visual deterrents – Not all crime is planned – sometimes burglars see an easy target and just decide to take a chance. To make sure that target isn’t your house, Clarke suggests setting up some obvious, visible crime barriers to make opportunistic criminals think twice before breaking in.

“Things like visible burglar bars and crowbar-proof security gates are a great start,” he says. “Obvious CCTV cameras – or realistic decoys – can be helpful as well. It’s also a good idea to limit visibility into the interior of your house where possible – if people can’t see that laptop at your window, they’re less likely to jump over your wall.”

Protect your perimeter – In the event that someone does decide to enter your front yard or garden, early warning can be very valuable for you and your security provider. To achieve this, Clarke recommends adding an outdoor layer to your security system, including garden beams and electric fencing, linked to your alarm.

Don’t forget your roof – Criminals don’t always use the front door to break in. There have been increasing reports of burglars removing roof tiles to get into houses through the ceiling space. This allows them to access the property largely unseen, and also deactivate any alarm systems that are wired through the roof.

“It’s definitely a good idea to put an alarm passive in your ceiling space,” says Clarke. “This helps chase off burglars with a break-in plan as well as opportunistic copper thieves.”

Don’t make it obvious when no-one is home – This is a particularly important security tip during the festive season when we all spend more time visiting friends and family or heading off for a well-deserved break.

“Get a neighbour to clear your mailbox and take out your bin,” Clarke suggests, “and consider putting a light on a timer switch in a visible window that turns on and off in the evenings. This can give the impression of someone going about normal evening activities, even when nobody is actually home.

“Don’t leave your TV or radio on, as constant noise can actually be a clue that nobody is home,” he continues. “It’s also a good idea to drop the volume on your landline ringtone so that unanswered calls don’t give your absence away.”

Have an emergency plan – One of the most overlooked elements of a security strategy is what to do if the worst happens and you’re home during a break-in.

“It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s important to have a back-up plan,” says Clarke. “Make sure your panic buttons work and are placed in several spots around the home, including the bathroom – a common spot for burglars to lock residents up. Have emergency services on speed dial, and think about possible escape routes that might get you out of a dangerous situation.”