Sometimes it’s just all too much! We have to constantly be on the lookout for crime and criminals.
Cybercrime – stealing your banking details or identity and buying stuff you never would online; petty crime – criminals pickpocketing or lifting things from your washing line; premeditated crime – criminals watching you and planning to rob your home or steal your car, or worse rape you; violent crime that includes physical abuse and crime in the form of slavery – taking not only your possessions but your children. Crime is everywhere, we know about it, we hear about it all the time and we pray that it won’t happen to us or our loved ones.
So, should we cower in our homes and never ever go out again? We know that isn’t the answer. We also know our children need to go to school, socialise, visit friends’ homes and maybe even have sleep overs. Children are also going to go to parties where you don’t know the parents and there could be peer pressure to try illicit substances. We know this! So how do we keep our wits about us so that we can be aware, prepared and not completely freak out when we are put under pressure or find ourselves in a less than ideal situation.
Here are some tips on protecting yourself, your children and your home.
- As per the air hostess in the airplane who tells you to strap on your mask before strapping on your child’s mask – behave in a way that protects you, so that you can protect your family and your possessions – and be an example of how to behave to your children. Panic helps NOBODY!
- Avoid being alone on streets at night in neighbourhoods with a bad reputation (sometimes we live in those neighbourhoods – so avoid being on the street at night if possible, or always go out with three plus friends).
- Always let someone know where you are (parent, friend, colleague), where you’re going and when you expect to be there by.
- If it is legal, look into personal protection such as mace/pepper spray, tasers, self-defence key chain (keep your keys on it and hold your keys through a tight fist so they act as a weapon), panic button or whistle (whistles can alert people to a problem and panic buttons on cell phones offered by many security and app providers can also act as a form of call for help).
- Be fully aware of your surroundings. People who are visibly distracted by their cell phones become easy targets for pickpockets and other criminals.
- Keep your belongings and valuable possessions, like wallets, smart phones, and cameras out of sight to avoid attracting attention. Store these items safely in your purse or backpack and only take them out when you need them
- Drugs and alcohol can impair your judgment and your ability to defend yourself physically in the event that you are attacked. If you do drink, remember to never leave your beverage unattended, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. Also stay with your friends.
- It is much easier for a pickpocket or rapist to attack a person on foot as opposed to a bicycle. If possible, ride a bike to your destination instead of walking, especially if you are traveling by yourself.
Protect your children
- Children should walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets they know and never take short cuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots and never walk with cell phones and iPads in full view.
- If children get picked up at school, they should always wait inside the school grounds for their lift to arrive.
- Younger children particularly must never get into a stranger’s car; even if the stranger claims that someone they love is hurt and that they have been sent to pick them up. Remind them that you would never send someone they don’t know to fetch them.
- Consider using a password system. If the person coming to collect you from school cannot repeat the password you and your child agreed on, they should not get into the car but immediately ask for help.
- If a stranger approaches your child, they should not talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem or if they offer them sweets. If someone tries to grab them, they need to fight, kick and shout.
- If your child does encounter any suspicious activity, encourage them to get a good look and memorise their physical details and clothing, as well as the vehicle they are in. Listen for any names or other details that might help identify them later.
- Make sure your children memorise their full names, address and phone number. Using a play phone, teach them when and how to dial 10111. If they are older they should have some emergency numbers programmed into their phone or consider having a safety app on their phone.
And older children/students:
- If students are out at night, they should use a taxi service, ensuring it is a bona fide service provider.
- Be extra cautious when meeting anyone who befriends you on social media. Always meet in a public space with two/three friends as backup.
- Be cautious to be lured by people offering you a job or modelling contract. Or any kind of work that is ‘too good to be true’. Remember safety in numbers.
- Always let someone responsible know where you are going.
Missing Children South Africa has published a step-by-step guide of what parents need to do, and this list can be viewed at https://missingchildren.org.za/child-safety/
Protect your home
- Look for potential weak points in your home security. All doors should be fitted with security gates, and windows should be secured with burglar bars, unless you have beams in your garden which can act as an early warning detection.
- Ensure you have the best perimeter protection you can afford, such as high walling and electric fencing, or security beams. These systems should be backed up with armed response.
- At any point in the day, if you leave your home, secure the doors, lock the windows and don’t forget the garage too.
- At night light up the landscape by using lights with sensors that are triggered by movement (motion detector lights). That way you don’t need to leave the lights on all night in the garden.
- Set up a security system – this can be done simply using sensors you can buy at hardware stores and a basic alarm system or opt for a professional installer or security company to fit the system for your home.
- Eliminate hiding places such as bushes at your driveway or door, dustbins on the street, etc.
- Add security cameras so that you can monitor your home on site or via an app. However, unless this is linked up to an advanced monitoring system it is easy to ‘miss’ seeing when something untoward is happening.
- Use home automation to manage lights, access, and other facets of your home.
- There are other systems that combine home automation, cameras and security systems that allow you to receive alerts based on specific triggers – these systems allow you to be on top of your home security and have much more control of your home’s security and what is happening around you.
Article by Melina Lewis