Many of us have been victims of crime ourselves, or know someone who has. It is a given and unfortunately something to which we cannot turn a blind eye or deaf ear. Everyone is exposed to it daily, which is why it is essential to do everything possible to protect ourselves, our loved ones as well as our possessions, at home and on the road.
Safety at home
Lock all doors and windows when no-one will be at home, and also when you are at home.
Invest in a security system and test it frequently to ensure it is in good working condition. It may be an alarm only that is activated to deter a burglar, or one that is linked to a security company. Remember to activate it when you leave home and in the evening when you go to bed.
Switch on the outside lights. Criminals like the protection offered by dark areas.
Prune shrubs, bushes and trees in front of or near windows, as they are an ideal hideaway for burglars.
When going out at night, switch on a few inside lights as well as a television or radio. This will create the impression that someone is home.
Lock your garage and hide the keys, as well as the car keys, in an inconspicuous place in the home. If your car has to be parked outside a garage, don’t leave valuables inside the car.
Put jewellery in a safe or in an inconspicuous container, rather than in a jewellery box. Hide the container in an improbable place, where burglars won’t look for it (never in a medicine cabinet, in between clothes or under your mattress).
Hide keys and electronic equipment out of sight.
Don’t announce on social media that you are (or going) on holiday.
Stop the delivery of mail and newspapers when you go on holiday and ask your neighbours to remove them, as well as junk mail, from your post box regularly, as well as to place your rubbish bin outside the gate and replace it again.
Don’t leave ladders and other tools standing or lying around outside.
Inform people you trust when you are going away for a long period. Ask your neighbours or family who live close by to keep a watchful eye.
Inform your security company about your departure and return dates.
Leave a set of keys with a trustworthy person so that someone has access to your home should anything happen (a fire, or a burglary).
Don’t hide house keys under a door mat or any place outside the home.
Make sure that during your absence there is always someone to take care of your pets.
Keep emergency numbers of the local police station, neighbourhood watch, your security company and other emergency services at hand (preferably on your phone).
Make sure your children and elderly parents know exactly what to do and who to contact in cases of safety or medical emergencies when you aren’t at home.
Safety in the neighbourhood
Establish a neighbourhood watch in cooperation with the neighbours, local police and security companies. Arrange for training – what you have to be on the look-out for, and what you need to do when you suspect criminal activities.
Know your neighbours. This will prevent neighbours being perceived as criminals, or criminals as neighbours.
Join the neighbourhood’s WhatsApp group, where residents can report any suspicious activities in the vicinity.
Be alert and aware of suspicious persons, vehicles and activities in your neighbourhood and warn your children to also be alert and not to talk to strangers. Report it immediately and provide as much details as possible. Never go for a walk or run alone. Don’t wear valuable possessions such as your wallet or cell phone in visible areas on your body.
Identify a few ‘safe houses’ in the neighbourhood that your children can feel free to approach if on their way home from school, or when playing outside, they feel unsafe – they are being followed by a stranger, fall and are injured, or realise they have lost their house keys.
Safety in the street
Always ride or walk in a group.
Park in well-lit areas, or in places that aren’t isolated.
Keep a non-lethal weapon, for example pepper spray or a shock stick, close at hand for self-defence.
Take self-defence classes.
If a stranger approaches you at a traffic light or stop street, don’t open your car window widely and don’t leave your vehicle. Drive away as fast as possible, press the hooter repeatedly, and/or drive to the nearest police station.
Plan your route and make sure someone knows about your travel plans – where you are going, and at what time they can expect you to be home. If travelling far, give a copy of your itinerary and important documents to a friend/family member.
Ensure that your cell phone is always charged so that you can stay in contact.
Store an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number and all emergency numbers, such as the police, ambulance and other emergency services, on your phone’s contact list.
Make sure your car is always roadworthy and equipped with everything necessary for an emergency situation – spare wheel, emergency lights and triangle, as well as a first-aid kit.
If you are a member of the Automobile Association or a similar emergency service, make sure you have the contact number and your membership number at hand. The same goes for your car if still under guarantee and you have to make use of the manufacturers’ road assistance service.
If taking a long trip (with or without your family), make sure you have a few blankets, enough water and healthy snacks in the vehicle, should it break down and you might be stranded for a considerable period of time.