Using historic patterns, anyone can, albeit uncomfortably, source stats to prove there is always a spike in crimes over the festive season. Home robberies and invasions, theft of personal property and all manner of contact crime escalates, but more so now, as criminals play catch-up for opportunities lost during the severest of lockdown restrictions.
This is the darkest of realities that South African’s now face. Darker still is the criminal mind for it has no concept of human care or respect for lives. To criminals, people are just the means by which they can acquire what they want, now and/or for their future.
A new aspect of crime, specifically due to Covid-19-related loss of jobs, is that while we may identify with a criminal’s plight in some respects ie: the need to put food on the table, we do not identify with their acts. Confirming this is Craig B Roseveare, author of the book ‘Your Security in South Africa’ and a former SAP Riot Reaction Unit member.
There is no doubt that job losses and the economic downturn is creating new criminals, and crime will keep escalating in correlation with the unemployment rate. And as more defence and preventative mechanisms are put in place, the more serious and violent crimes will manifest.
To understand better what we are dealing with, Roseveare has defined the average South African criminal: “Male, between the ages 18-35, physically strong and fit, and usually dependent on one or more narcotics, which exacerbates their lack of sensitivity and conscience. This in turn leads to potential violence and injury on victims, even death.”
It is obvious that criminals prefer soft targets, mainly women and the elderly. It is also obvious that the fewer deterrents, the more likely a criminal is to attack. Roseveare makes the point that our own lack of awareness makes us perfect candidates for an attack. “Walking and texting on a phone, not checking our ‘blind spots’ such as over-the-shoulder checks, observing our surroundings and not fortifying our properties adequately make us vulnerable, and not just to opportunistic crime, but even to more organised syndicates.
“Contrary to what a lot of people think, criminals are often well-organised. They have scouts and getaway vehicles. They monitor routines, sometimes over a number of days. Many attacks are opportunistic, and these are often more dangerous as the criminal is under pressure to engage quickly. This criminal specimen is capable of using drastic measures, is likely armed with a gun, and therefore exceptionally more dangerous.”
Guns are the preferred choice of arms for criminals who, confirms Roseveare, acquire them illegally from the public through their criminal acts, and even from corrupt SA Police Service officials. “If threatened by a gun, it is always best to comply with the criminal’s demands, unless of course you have been well-trained, and I emphasise ‘trained’ as in self defence techniques like Krav Maga, that allow you to takedown a gun-carrying criminal. It’s a tricky situation because you have to be alert to a windows of opportunity to effect this takedown technique. Or you use your own firearm.”
In no way are we suggesting or endorsing the ownership of a gun, but in Roseveare’s mind and in his experience, he believes the only way to contend with such attackers, in a case where there is no option but to face the incident, is to have the mindset of kill or be killed. “This sounds scary or extreme to some but we need to be prepare ourselves. Women are often taken with the intention of rape, and most likely murdered in order to protect the identity of the attackers.”
There is another method; that of Verbal Judo. “The gentle art of persuasion applies if you have no means of escape, particularly if children are involved in any conflict situation. Appealing to the attackers by whatever means possible to order to defend your loved ones requires as much training and care as using a gun or self defence techniques,” says Roseveare.
As innocent citizens, we need to be mindful that we are always going to be our own first responders when confronted with criminal intent. Seconds count when the police or our security companies are minutes away. We need to change our mindsets.
Part of that change requires heightening paranoia around crime: “it leads to a longer life”. Paranoia goes hand-in-hand with extreme vigilance. If we are always constantly aware of our vulnerabilities, we can make changes to behaviour, and recognise and respond to potential holes in our security.
Markers, for example. Also known as cryptography, are no fallacy. Left outside of properties, they indicate a potential target. Roseveare recommends that if you discover a possible marker, you contact a senior representative of a security company to investigate. “There are few people who can decipher what they mean or are intended for. Even if removed, the residents need to go into high alert mode, and change routines for up to three weeks.”
Securing the home against such a potential attacks requires starting at the centre, and working outwards says Roseveare. “It makes no sense to erect an electric fence or palisade if you don’t have burglar bars or security gates. A must have is an internal security gate, preferably slamlock, to cordon off sleeping areas. And never over-estimate electric fence or beams; criminals can easily breach these.
“When in your car, keep your doors locked, and windows up at stop points. Check for suspicious vehicles following you, change your route and routines regularly,” stresses Roseveare. “Be wary of people loitering, taking photographs or walking past you and/or your home on a frequent basis. And never ever let your guard down. If you are prepared, you will reduce your chance of being attacked by as much as 80% or more.”