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Updating your homeowner insurance and tackling security in layers is the advice from experts

An alarm system and armed response protecting your property are practical measures to prevent crime at your home. But there is much more you can do. 

“It is prudent for homeowners to check the status of their insurance cover. More than just the security aspect, cover extends protection to water damage resulting from burst geysers, food in your fridge going bad due to electricity outages or your front wall being demolished by a learner driver,” says Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate chief executive Mike Greeff. 

A sensible approach is for homeowners to look at home security in layers, suggests Verena Hulme, district manager (Cape Town North) for Fidelity ADT Security. 

A simple, but effective comparison would be to compare the “layers” of your home security to those of an onion, starting with the outermost layer being the onion skin, which can be interpreted as the exterior of your property and working through to the core, which can be seen as the innermost, protected layer being a bedroom or living area. 

The outermost layer of security – your suburb: 

● Does your area have a neighbourhood watch or community security scheme? It is important residents act as the eyes and ears of police and security companies, reporting any suspicious persons or situations. 

● Is there sufficient street lighting? 

● If you stand in the street and look at your home, does your house appear well-kept? 

The second layer of defence – the exterior of your home: There are several questions to ask when it comes to the exterior of your home. First and foremost, evaluate if it is a target: 

● Are bushes or trees overgrown? Any large shrub or tree should be kept trimmed to ensure they do not serve as hiding places for would-be criminals. 

● Make sure all garden tools or any item that can be used as a means of gaining entry or a weapon have been packed away in a locked garage or shed. 

● Are any visible deterrents like CCTV cameras fitted near entrances or under the eaves, and are security company signboards displayed in first-floor windows or mounted on outside walls? 

● Security systems wired to doors and windows are also important as the blaring of an alarm could scare an intruder. 

● Do you have effective burglar bars and safety gates fitted to windows and doors? Ideally, these should be installed on the inside. While a burglar believes he may have easy access a burglar bar or gate fitted like this will not only surprise him, but may even frustrate and deter him when he realises the bar or gate is still in the way. ● Have proper locks been fitted to the doors and windows? 

Neighbourhood security groups have proven effective. File picture: Ross Jansen/ANA

The third layer of security – inside the home: bedrooms and living areas: This final layer of security is aimed at protecting your family from harm and safeguarding your belongings: 

● Is there easy access into the home through the roof and should you consider placing sensors in the ceiling to detect intruders? 

● Having panic buttons strategically placed throughout the house, such as bedrooms and living areas, can ensure if a member of the household was to come across a burglar trying to break in, they could quickly and easily activate the alarm, notifying the control monitoring centre of the intrusion and allowing armed response to be deployed. 

● Surveillance cameras, motion sensors or passives in bedrooms can detect movement in the house when the alarm is activated, protecting your valuables when you are away from home. 

● Are smaller valuables, like jewellery, cash and passports, safely secured? Safes can be used to guard these items. Greeff says: “If you do live in a gated estate or sectional title property, your level of security is already much higher, but if you are going away at any stage – even for a weekend – it wouldn’t hurt to inform onsite security personnel that you will be away. 

“They will be happy to check your property as part of their regular patrol.” Additionally, CCTV cameras are not only a deterrent to criminals but also add to the value of your property. 

“We recognise your home is your single most valuable asset. We encourage you to be vigilant and to take the necessary steps to ensure your home is secure,” says Greeff. 

Layering measures for home security is important as this means it will take more time for a burglar to gain entry. 

Delaying tactics could serve as a source of frustration for a potential burglar, dissuading him from breaking in. Lastly, says Hulme, it is important to test security systems well in advance of any time you will be away so there is enough time to call in a technician to fix problems, if needed. Ideally, alarm systems should be tested at least four times a year.

Be proactive in your area 

Neighbourhood watches and similar organisations are continually growing in popularity, both in South Africa and globally and have, over decades, proven effective in reducing crime. 

Excellerate Security’s commmunity project manager, Nikki Möhlman, is appealing to more communities to follow suit and set up their own watches and community policing organisations. 

“The idea behind such initiatives is that residents take more control over their neighbourhoods and look out for and report suspicious activity. 

“This active vigilance and surveillance deters criminals by decreasing the opportunities there are to commit

“Neighbourhood watches that work closely with the local police have an even greater impact on crime as crucial information can be exchanged and disseminated. “Joint anti-crime operations can also be regularly carried out, which not only serve as a deterrent but can also lead to the arrest of criminals,” Möhlman says.

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