Buying? Investigate urban crime!

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

You would think, given the high levels of crime in this country, that those in power would do everything possible to get their facts straight first-time around. However, the annual crime statistics released last week indicate that someone, somewhere, got things horribly wrong with regards to KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo at least.

A report filed by The Daily News last week questioned the accuracy of the crime stats when it was revealed that, while the Westville police station had opened 192 cases of stock theft, only one lowly shoplifter had been caught and charged. Pretty interesting stuff, given that the area is home to three shopping centres, including one of the largest in SA.

Safe, my mate

Things were also looking rosy for those living in Umzinto on the KZN south coast. The statistics reflected that no crime, not even house and business robberies, had been reported over the last year. Indeed, crime had apparently decreased by 100% in the area. Nottingham Road in the Midlands unfortunately didn't fare quite as well, with the stats indicating a staggering 6 000% increase in crime.

You don't have to be much of a rocket scientist to work out that something is horribly wrong and, in fact, the police have since released the “correct” figures. Mistakes do happen of course but it doesn't do much for the country’s confidence in its police force’s ability to actually combat the crime being committed.

Many people are wary of the annual stats released by the police, believing that the figures are rigged or that there has been negligence in preparing them. After all, exactly how much livestock could possibly be stolen in a suburb such as Westville, Durban?

Get the suburb’s stats

Crime occurs everywhere, at any time, even if you have tight security on your property 24/7 365 a year. There are hotspots and those investing in property need to know exactly what is happening crime-wise in the suburb in which they are looking to buy.

So how does someone find out what is really happening and which suburbs are safer than others?

The first point that comes to mind is to check out what sort of crime prevention methods are employed by homeowners in the area. High walls and alarms are pretty much accepted as the norm, but a closer look at the situation may be needed if all you see are rolls and rolls of barbed wire covering the perimeter fences of every home.

Enquire if the suburb has an established neighbourhood watch. Private citizens are banding together and it's often been proven that a good neighbourhood watch has a positive impact on crime levels in the area under its control.

Avoid vagrants

Consider staying away from areas where loiterers congregate. The adage “idle hands are the devil's tools” comes to mind and traditionally crime is higher in these places.

Even if everything looks good from the outside, it's highly recommended that buyers investigate the levels and perhaps the types of crime that the area is experiencing. Chat to the locals and ask about their experiences. It’s not a bad idea to check in with local security companies either.

Security companies are an excellent source of information and are generally more than happy to share their experiences with those who take the time to listen.

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