Every day there seems to be another story doing the rounds about attempted robberies, successful burglaries or conmen on the loose in our city.
Not everyone can afford sophisticated hi-tech alarm systems which can be pricey to install plus the extra monthly payment for ‘rapid response’ service. While a good alarm system is without doubt the best protection for your family and your property, here are a few low budget tips to keep you safe.
For home owners, the first line of defence against burglaries is the front door. If you’ve just moved in to a new house or apartment, change all the locks on all the exterior doors. The previous owners or tenants may be trustworthy but do you know everyone that they’ve given spare keys to? If you lose your keys, replace all the locks immediately. Don’t leave your spare keys under the doormat or on top of the lintel. Be creative and find more unusual places for the key or leave spares with a friend or neighbour.
A spy hole and a door chain are also useful, fairly simple and low-tech safety measures. The spy hole lets you see who’s at the front door before opening up to strangers and the door chain means you can make sure that no-one is hiding around the corner. It also gives you time to ask for ID or credentials. They’re both relatively inexpensive and simple to install. Your front door, especially if you live in a flat, should have at least two locks – preferably one of which should be a deadbolt. Of course, all of these measures are useless if you don’t use them.
Always lock the doors and windows when you go out, even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes. Similarly, keep the doors locked when you’re at home, especially if you’re at home alone, vulnerable, sleeping or feeling unwell. An elderly couple was robbed recently in broad daylight at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. They had left the back door of their house not just unlocked but wide open and the criminals simply walked in and helped themselves.
Another relatively inexpensive way to make your home safer is to use motion sensor lights. Prices for the sensors start from around $20 and they’re sold at most hardware stores and lighting specialists. The sensor detects movement and activates the light. You can get the sensor with the light fittings attached or you can set up the sensor outside to switch on a light in the house to give you prior warning of intruders. A good place to install them is at your gate so you’ll know if anyone comes in without your knowledge, or at your front door. An added bonus is that if you install it at the front door, the light will come on when you come home so you won’t be fumbling around in the dark looking for keys. The units can be adjusted so the light doesn’t go on every time your dog walks past and you can also adjust the length of time the light stays on.
Keeping the garden floodlit all night is not only expensive but wasteful. The motion sensors mean the light only comes on for a few minutes at a time. LED lights use far less electricity but can be annoying for your neighbours. Consider using solar lights in darker parts of the garden. They are not usually very bright but at least they imply a presence and work when there’s no ZESA.
If you’re going to be away from home for a couple of days or longer get some timer switches. The simplest type look like electrical adaptors: they plug directly into a wall socket and you can then plug in table lamps, the radio or the TV and set the timer so they switch on and off at different intervals. Slightly more expensive timers have battery backup so the timer doesn’t keep resetting itself every time the ZESA goes off. Better still ask a friend or neighbour to pop around and open and close the curtains and change the lights around.
Dogs are the homeowners’ best friend and the burglars’ worst enemy. Sadly there have been many reports of dogs being poisoned with Aldicarb or Temik which is lethal and very fast acting. Feed your dogs at night so they’re less likely to eat poisoned food, or move the dogs to an area of the yard where it’s more difficult to throw poisoned food to them. Better yet, keep the dogs indoors at night so they can protect you and your property.