‘South Africans are not safe in their homes’ - expert advice on improving your home security

Renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, who is Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management. Picture: Supplied

Renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, who is Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 31, 2024


Police Minister Bheki Cele released alarming crime statistics for the third quarter of the financial year 2023/24 last month, showing that communities across South Africa are under siege from violent criminals.

At the time, IOL reported that the crime statistics show that there were nearly 8,000 brutal murders in the last three months, yet only 1,500 people were found guilty.

The crime statistics released in February were recorded at all South African Police Service’s (SAPS) 1,163 police stations in the period between October 1 2023 to December 31 2023.

Between October and December last year, Cele revealed that more than 7,700 people had been murdered, which means a person was killed every 20 minutes, on average, during that period in South Africa.

In a further breakdown of the statistics, analysts stated that the latest quarterly crime statistics, show that there was an average of 84 murders every day between October and December.

IOL spoke to renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, who highlighted that the reality and feeling of danger is heightened amongst economically challenged households who cannot afford private security service and technological security devices.

“Escalating crime trends in South Africans are definitely making South African homes not safe. Neighbourhood safety is often equated with exposure to danger. Neighbourhoods with a low level of danger are usually perceived as safe. Dangerous neighbourhoods, characterised by high levels of crime and violence, are often perceived as unsafe,” she said.

Renowned criminologist, Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, who is Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management. Picture: Supplied

“South Africans are not safe in their homes due to inability to hire private security or inability to afford security devices. They are further not safe in their homes due to past victimisation experience, poor police-community relations, poor police response, police corruption etc.”

Prof Rakubu is the Head of Department at Tshwane University of Technology’s recently merged Department of Law, Safety and Security Management.

In the last three months of 2023, Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed that more than 7,700 people were brutally murdered. File Picture: SAPS

Concurring with Prof. Rakubu, leading anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, who is also the presenter of the Crime Watch program on eTV and eNCA, told IOL that home invasions and burglaries have become commonplace in South Africa.

“While some are opportunistic, others are targeted and well planned. Some gangs specialise in these crimes. It is important for home owners to protect their properties. Private security does play a role. Installation of alarms, beams, burglar bars and gates as well as electric fencing is recommended,” said Abramjee.

One of South Africa’s leading anti-crime activists and Crime Watch presenter on eNCA, Yusuf Abramjee spoke to IOL on home safety. File Picture: Supplied

“Make sure that the area (of your home) is also well lit, especially with solar lights during load shedding. We are seeing more criminals active during the dark. Dogs are also a deterrent.”

Experts recommend keeping dogs at home as a deterrent to criminals. File Picture: Laura-Leah Momberg

Additionally, Prof Rakubu said there are several interventions for people to improve security at their homes.

“According to security research, best way to prevent a house robbery in particular includes keeping small dogs inside your home, electric fences, alarms and security sensors, and employing an armed response service. To improve home security, secure the perimeter of your home by ensuring that the CCTV monitors the perimeter of your home,” she said.

“Although South Africa still faces power issues and most areas would be having electricity outage, to improve home security, having an electric fences is still considered as one best security measure. The fence should be correctly installed, without loose wires and install batteries to protect against load shedding or electricity outages.”

She added that at times, daring criminals temper with the fences, triggering security alarms, and hoping that home owners would switch off the fences thinking there is a fault.

Exterior beams are also recommended as additional support to the electric fences.

“Research further identifies poor quality driveway gate as the most home security threat. Therefore, gates should have an anti-lift device to ensure it cannot be taken off its rails, while the gate motor should be secured with an anti-theft bracket. It is advised that the pedestrian access gates and doors be locked with a cylinder lock or four-lever mortice lock,” said Prof Rakubu.

Experts highly recommend the installation of exterior beams to detect intruders before they enter the house. File Picture: Pexels

“South Africans are urged to use smart elements. The smartest way of securing homes right now is online and app driven. A home-automation system incorporating smart security lets owner unlock doors with a smart door lock and an app. Unlocking the door alerts the system that owners or occupants are home, which deactivates the smart alarm system and simultaneously switches on the CCTV system.”

Prof Rakubu emphasised that private security companies are playing a significant role in preventing and combating crime in South Africa.

“The role that the private security industry can play in crime prevention is certainly significant. Considering the resources of the private security industry, there are about three times as many security officers as police members on the streets and about three times as many armed response vehicles as police patrol vehicles,” she said.

“Due to the current state of security in South Africa and the 2023 crime statistics, the need for private security continues to increase. Private security companies further play a role in guarding the gated communities and fenced-in residential areas that have rapidly increased in number over the past few years. These are established largely because residents feel unsafe in their homes, and result in these communities setting up their own systems of policing, with services provided by private security companies.”

Former station commander of SAPS Garsfontein, Colonel Kervin Solomons with members of a successful task team of police officers and Brinant Security. Photo: SAPS

There are an estimated 600,000 private security officers on the ground across South Africa, complementing the leading role played by the SA Police Service in fighting crime.

Members of the Tshenolo Private Investigations' tactical units. Photo: Supplied

Prof Rakubu said the SAPS is falling short when it comes to protecting residents in their homes.

“The police are not doing enough to protect residents while in their homes. There are multiple factors hindering the polices’ ability to protect residents. The challenges include growing population (police-community ratio imbalance); declining personnel; overwhelming workloads for the serving men and women in blue; lack of resources, hence limited patrols,” she said.

The academic said at times, the SAPS does not have vehicles to maintain regular patrols. She said poor stakeholder collaboration and partnership by the SAPS has also contributed to the runaway crime.

Prof Rakubu highlighted that general, the police’s crime-fighting strategies are “unsuitable”.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele during a SAPS National Commemoration Day at the Union Buildings. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Media

Last month, in an ongoing bid to boost crime-fighting in South Africa, government strengthened the rank and file of the SAPS through the recruitment of 20,000 police officers over the last two years, and the recruitment of an additional 10,000 officers is envisaged in the year to come.