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The latest South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics for July to September 2021 indicated that crime has increased in most categories when compared to the same period a year ago. Police Minister Bheki Cele noted that the crime picture for this quarter is not as alarming as the previous quarter figures, which were skewed due to a comparison to a quarter when the country was in a state of lockdown. However, the statistics are still not ideal, and are concerning in terms of murder, rape and hijacking.

Faced with such figures, people at times may feel that it’s the criminals who have the power and that there is nothing they can do about it. However, there is always something you can do to make a change. Your actions can help protect you and those around you and add to the good that is already being done by law enforcement agencies. Care about and make a difference to your safety, and that of your community, by following these tips:

Remove the target
You’ve most likely already taken steps to secure your possessions. For your house, there are many products on the market from the most basic security gates to an enhanced home security system with IP cameras that allows you to view the activity in your home remotely from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Stolen vehicle recovery trackers have been around for years, but the latest services offer greater care and protection for the families that invest in them. However, there are additional steps you can take to avoid becoming a target.

Don’t leave valuable items on view through the windows of your house or your car. Keep curtains drawn on any window that can be seen from the street to prevent potential thieves from seeing what you have in your house or whether the room is occupied. In the car, valuables are better kept in the boot or under the seats.

If you indulge in some extravagant purchases for Black Friday or Christmas, don’t leave the boxes outside with your trash for everyone to see. Criminals will then know exactly what you have for them to steal. Rather dispose of the boxes at a recycling depot – it’s better for the environment too.

Try not to park your car on the street. Rather park it behind a closed gate, even if you will only be away from the car for two minutes. Better yet, park it in a garage. Otherwise, park in a well-lit area and away from shrubs or fences that could provide concealment for criminals.

Remove the access
Tools, ladders and even garden furniture can be used to commit a crime, so keep these items locked away when not in use. Clear up any rubble, bricks or other items that could be used to gain access to your home or car.

Your Pikitup wheelie bin can be used as a climbing aid or to transport stolen items. So, only put it outside during the morning of collection day, bring it in as soon as possible after the truck has been around, and keep it out of reach at all other times.

Good neighbour
Introduce yourself and get to know your neighbours. Having a friendly face nearby goes a long way towards feeling more settled, comfortable and safe. You’ll be able to watch out for one another and you will immediately know when something out of the ordinary occurs at a neighbouring home or strangers are lurking. Exchange numbers so that you can keep each other updated on matters of importance or reach out in an emergency.

Keep your garden and the curb outside your house neat. Keep bushes trimmed and report any streetlights that aren’t working. Also, pick up litter, as this can sometimes be used by criminals as markers.

Serve as extra eyes and ears
Law enforcement can’t be on every street corner, so be aware of what is going on in your street and keep an eye out for anything strange. Report any crime or suspicious activity to the police. Also, join your community WhatsApp or Telegram group so that you can be kept up-to-date on the happenings in your neighbourhood and share any important information.

Get involved
Work with community organisations on solving problems or sign up with your neighbourhood watch group. Assist with the upkeep in your area. Help children to learn how to effectively handle conflicts and problems. Mentor young people who could benefit from positive support from adults.

“You have the power to help bring down crime in South Africa,” says Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operating Officer at Tracker. “Embody our brand promise of “to care is to protect” and be part of the change. Your tip-offs can make a big difference. You never know, you could inadvertently solve a crime or save a life. A few months ago, one of our staff noticed an abandoned vehicle parked on the street not so far from our offices. They alerted our ops team who went to investigate and found that the vehicle was stolen, leading to the recovery of a vehicle without a tracking unit.”