Keep your home secure

There are many things inside your home criminals would like to get their hands on, from electronic goods such as TVs and laptops to jewellery and cash. Keep the criminals out and you’ll keep your family and possessions safe. But this isn’t always an easy task because criminals are determined, inventive and persistent.

To find out what deters a criminal from entering and burgling your home, we chatted to someone who interviews incarcerated criminals, Dr Rudolph Zinn, Professor of Policing and Forensic Investigation at UNISA, as well as two security companies.

Detect criminals on your perimeter

If you can keep the criminals off your property completely and make it really difficult for them to gain access to your home undetected, your chances of being burgled or robbed are reduced.

Detecting a criminal early means you can alert emergency response services before they are in your home, and you can get to a panic room if you have one.  It is important to keep a watchful eye and be vigilant in order to detect any suspicious persons or activity which can lead to crime prevention. It is advisable to report any suspicious activity or persons to your armed response company or the police to investigate.

So, while the big wall and fence is useful, an alarmed or monitored perimeter is preferable.

You may have heard that criminals prefer solid walls to palisade fencing because palisade fencing offers a clear view of your home from the street.  According to Dr Zinn,  criminals prefer to enter your home away from a street view, there isn’t really any truth to the story that palisade fencing is better than solid walls. “Some criminals said this was a deterrent, others said it wasn’t.”

In keeping with early detection, both Dr Zinn and security companies CMS and ADT are of the opinion that a patrolling car in the area will also act as a deterrent.

Dogs kept outside the house aren’t seen as a deterrent because criminals can deal with them in various ways – such as poisoning them.

Don’t let your guard down in the evenings

Criminals like alarms off, so when you’re at home in the evening relaxing, with the doors and windows open, you’re a target.

“The highest number of house robberies take place between 4pm and 11pm, and 5am and 7am,” Dr Zinn says.

It’s unrealistic to close and lock every door, window and switch on every alarm when you’re at home, but you can lock security gates and have some perimeter security that detects people entering your property.

In addition, small dogs also serve as an early warning system. Dr Zinn asked criminals to list their top deterrents and small dogs inside the house made the list!

Burglar bars are a must – even in gated, secure estates

Sometimes gaining access to properties in a secured estate is as easy as bribing the security guard.  There are criminals who specialise in secure estates.

That means burglar bars, which make it hard to get into your home, are a necessity.

Dr Zinn says usually one criminal will enter a home through a window, and then open a door for the other criminals. The harder your burglar bars are to remove or bend, the less attractive your home is to criminals. Burglar bars on every window and door should be reinforced or have gates installed in front of then – pay attention to all floors and levels.

Getting into and out of your property

Intercom systems with video footage at entry points are a good idea. And if you’re concerned about hijacking in your driveway keep the area clear. That means no bushes, trees or large features where a hijacker can hide and surprise you.

Know what criminals are looking for

According to, Dr Zinn  criminals want goods that are difficult to trace such as expensive jewellery and cash. They will target someone who runs a cash business and keeps cash in the home. Often this knowledge is gained from inside information. In fact, 77% of robberies are as a result of inside information..

A safe for valuables will be a deterrent – and in many cases is required either by an insurance company or law (for firearms). The reason – it adds to the time needed to commit the crime.

Dr Zinn says criminals want to be in and out in 10 – 15 minutes, and safes can be difficult to get into in that time. However, criminals often use threats or will injure someone in the home to gain access and to safes and point out valuable items.  “The best thing is to not keep a lot of cash in the home and be careful of selling expensive items for cash in the newspaper or websites – it could advertise to a criminal that you have a lot of cash”.

Choosing the right security guards

Generally, security guards aren’t highly paid, and they work long hours. It can and does happen that they give inside information to or accept bribes from criminals and look the other way.

Dr Zinn says security guards who control access to the premises or street and patrol the area must be properly vetted and the community must ask for the right to polygraph them. He says it is always better for the community to be involved when security guards are appointed.

Know your emergency numbers

If something does happen, know your emergency contact numbers.  If at home, always have access to panic buttons or activate the alarm or call for help.  Use an app such as MiBlackBox to notify your emergency contacts of your situation and thereby enlist the help of others…

Don’t be an easy target

Criminals are opportunistic and look for  easy targets. The harder and longer they have to work to get inside, the less likely they are to steal your goods. The greater the chance of them being seen before and as they enter your property, the more likely they are to find another target.

For more tips on how to keep your home secure visit SAPS and your security company’s website and Facebook page. Your insurer should also advise you on how to keep your property and possessions safe.

Home security checklist

Area to check and secureSecurity optionsKeep in mind
Perimeter – the area between your house, neighbouring houses and the streetWall and fences (alarmed), CCTV, personal security guards, motion detectors and sensors, lights, onsite security patrol car, neighbourhood watchMake sure CCTV is monitored

Have back-up battery power for systems running off electricity

Know your neighbours and security guards

Property entrance and exit points including gates, side gates, any garden entry points, shrubs used as bordersIntercom systems to allow entry and exit, onsite security guards, electronic gates, security fences on side-gatesKeep entrances clear so you can see who is entering and exiting your property
Garden securityLights and motion detectors, CCTV
Exterior home – any place where your home can be entered such as windows, doors, aircon unit installations, cat flaps, skylightsBurglar bars, security gates, CCTV, alarms, motion detectorsWalk around your home to identify weak spots and entry points
Inside your homeSafes for valuables, safe room or strong room where you can hide during a robbery, motion detectors, CCTV, security gates such as at the top of the stairs, panic buttons linked to armed responseHave an emergency system in place so you know what to do if a criminal enters your house

Try and memorise alarm codes and safe words