Gone are the days when criminals were less likely to target residents living in a secure complex, and statistics reveal that even people living on upper levels of flats are not immune to crime. Granted, residential complex security provides a sense of community and safety in numbers, but it is important to remember that your home is only as secure as the weakest security link, from the communal outer perimeter to your own private space.

A recent attack on a vulnerable pensioner in a complex in Durban revealed some of the common weak points that residents and body corporates need to be aware of when setting rules and selecting security systems. Armed robbers managed to get into the complex and awoke the woman in her bed at 3am. They robbed her of the jewellery she was wearing and demanded her bank card and pin number. The criminals had jumped over the complex gate and then screwed a hook on a broom that had been left lying around outside, before “fishing” her door keys through an open window.

This incident could have been prevented if there had been tighter complex security and if residents had implemented some cost effective, basic security measures. Blue Security operations director Brian Jackson highlighted some common vulnerabilities and offered these nine tips to ensure your complex security system is optimised and that everyone is living smart to keep the complex safe.

  1. Set ground rules

Instead of waiting for a crime incident to hit your complex, get residents together at a meeting to discuss complex security needs and rules. This simply means encouraging residents not to be blasé about safety and to live a security conscious lifestyle by laying down some essential guidelines. Basic disciplines like ensuring driveway gates are closed after entering and before driving away, and not opening the gate for strangers who claim to be visiting a neighbour, are non-negotiable. These may seem like simple ‘rules’ but many crime incidents have resulted after people failed to be vigilant.

  1. Clear the clutter

Get homeowners to inspect their own gardens and the common property for any possible common garden tools that could be turned into housebreaking implements or weapons. Pool nets, spades, garden forks, pangas, brooms, mops and ladders should be locked away when not in, use even during the daytime. Criminals use these to gain entry into properties, to “fish” handbags, keys and cellphones out of windows and as weapons against home owners.

  1. Audit the system

At least once a year, preferably before the end of year, do a full audit of your complex’s security system. Get residents to test their own alarm systems and inspect all security installations on the premises, from perimeter walls to individual units, to ensure each layer of security is working optimally. If the complex has an electric fence or if there are point-to-point infrared beams fitted to the top of the wall as an early warning intruder detection system, test these to ensure they are all in good working order. If the electric fence was installed after 1 October 2012 it is important to ensure that it is wired in line with SA National Standards. It is a legal requirement for individual unit owners to produce an electrical certificate of compliance (COC) when selling their properties.

  1. Monitor complex visitors

If your complex employs a security guard, get a simple handheld GPS scanner with which to monitor vehicle and foot traffic by scanning and recording visitor’s identity documents, driver’s licences and vehicle registration numbers. Use this system to monitor traffic and to ensure that the same number of people who arrive to visit or work at the property every day actually leave the complex. Most security companies will be able to automate this system by producing an an access control audit trail report that keeps track of movements.

  1. Harness security technology

With the rapid advance of technology, it has become far more accessible and simpler to use, such as the sophisticated smart intercom systems that allow residents to use their smartphones to open driveway gates. Simply tap a code into your cellphone to open the gate remotely from your unit or even from work to let a domestic worker into or out of the property. Instead of shying away from technology, encourage and train residents to use these systems which can prevent security breaches by ensuring that residents can at all times control who is allowed in.

  1. Protect your possessions

Unfortunately, criminals also target vehicles for theft out of complexes and one of the first places opportunistic criminals are likely to look for a quick theft is inside parked vehicles. Never leave valuables in sight in the car or even in the boot as criminals can often open the boot from inside the car once they have broken into it. Whether a resident lives on the ground floor or the third floor, make sure valuables like wallets, laptops and cell phones are not left in sight near windows where criminals may attempt to “fish” them out. Shimmying a drainpipe is an easy exercise for cat burglars so don’t rest assured that your valuables are entirely out of reach on an upper level.

  1. Know your neighbour

If you don’t have one already, start a WhatsApp group or some other form of instant messaging contact group for residents living in your complex and in your street so that you can look out for one another. Never underestimate the contribution each member can make to keeping your complex secure. One vigilant woman or elderly person living at home alone all day may not seem too formidable, but they can provide valuable information to others in the group, just by reporting any suspicious individuals they notice during the day. Crimes are prevented through intelligence networks such as these and make a big difference in the fight against crime.

  1. Secure special rates

Encourage residents to secure individual units with a single security company who can provide armed response as well as technical services to the common property. Most security companies will provide a competitive service fee in such cases. Insurers also expect individual units to have a certain level of security.

  1. Individual unit security

It’s also advisable for individual unit owners to invest in outdoor infrared beams in their private gardens, although these are usually not installed on common property where children enjoy free play. These outdoor beams detect movement and will sound the alarm if an intruder crosses the barrier before he manages to forage around for housebreaking implements or gets to your window to break in.

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