Invest in your security

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The escalating crime rates in this country are making everyone live on the edge. Not only are people living in fear but also their lives are negatively impacted, especially financially, as they are made to invest heavily on their security and/or curtail activities that help them make money. In this and following issues we shall address security from a financial point of view looking at areas where you need to invest more and things you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Crime is one of the greatest disrupters of financial and emotional stability there is. And in Kenya, this is a major concern as everyone is at risk of facing one type of crime or another – from robbery, carjacking, and pickpocketing, to the new trend of kidnappings. No one is safe – not in urban areas nor once safe rural setting, not poor nor rich, not young nor old. And, sadly, the government and security agents seem unable to contain crime. The legal, financial, emotional and medical costs associated with battling the aftermath of an event like a robbery, a mugging, kidnapping or a rape can literally bankrupt a family, leaving most people unable to work, or worse it could cost you your life.

Everyone can take action to minimise the chances that they or their family members will fall victim to a crime. We give you in this article practical and useful steps you can take to improve your safety. We also tell you which strategies are worth your financial investment. The message is strong – you must invest both your money and time in planning, preparation, and prevention of crime. If something does happen, the combination of preparation and presence of mind may be key to your survival.

1.Get a security review

It is important for everyone to understand the level of risk they are facing, as we are not all exposed in the same way. And since your situation may change over time, you must always be aware of your surroundings in order to minimise the chance of being attacked.

One of the best ways to prepare properly is to understand the risks you face by assessing your own circumstances, familiarising yourself with your environment, keeping your eyes and ears open, getting to know your neighbours, knowing the administrative structures of your village, estate or area you live in, identifying the nearest police station, and getting acquainted with police and media briefs on crime rates in your area.

If you can afford it, you can hire a professional firm to perform a security review for you. Whether you have a professional or you are doing it yourself, the first thing you will need to examine is what is called “threat environment.” This involves looking at the public profile of you and your family. If, for example, you appear wealthier than people around you, your level of risk increases.  If you are engaged in a job that puts you at risk, for example, you are in charge of hiring and firing staff or are a supervisor; your risk level is increased because you may make decisions that don’t make some people happy. If you handle money, for example as a church treasurer or company accountant who goes to the bank to deposit or withdraw cash, your risk is increased

Your threat environment is also influenced by the physical security of your home or where you live. If you live in an isolated place such as a farmhouse, you are at greater risk. You are also at risk if you live in poor and crowded crime-prone areas such as slums. A security review determines the physical security of your home, your office, your mode of travel, as well as your routine when moving from place to place, say going to work and back home. The review will also examine the ways in which you access information online, the background of people around you, including your employees, friends and household staff, and your travel patterns and habits.

A security review does not have to cost much, and indeed will cost very little if you do it yourself, but if you consider the consequences of a possible security breach, it is worth the time and investment it takes. While most people want to live their lives as normally as possible, a review can reveal some gaps that can easily be plugged in without being intrusive or disruptive. This should always be the security goal – not to disrupt your life or make you live in fear, but to take sensible precautions. You should update your security review at least every two years, or more often if your circumstances change, for example, you move into a new area, your finances improve or your public profile goes up.

2.Secure your home

When it comes to home security you should take all possible measures to deter criminals from entering. A good alarm system and external lighting are key factors in safety. The best reason to buy an alarm system is that it provides deterrent. A thief who sees the signs of an alarm system may want to pass your house in favour of a less guarded one, and if he dares enter the compound and the alarm goes off, he will surely want to make an exist as quickly as possible. An alarm system alerts your neighbours and therefore ensures you can get help if you are under attack.

Your alarm system is also security in case of a fire breakout or an incident in the house such as sickness or accident where you need help. Make sure your alarm system is simple enough for everyone to use including children, and that all the family members know how to reach it. Alarm systems come with different price tags depending on models and functions. You can get battery, solar and power charged alarm systems, so having no electricity in your home should not stop you from installing one. The cost of an alarm system is worth it considering the returns.

In addition, take up other precautionary measures like not leaving shared house keys outside the front door in an obvious place. Be aware of your surroundings when coming in and going out of your home. If you drive, be cautious while waiting for the gate to be opened or when you step out of the car to open it yourself. Ensure that the gate area is well lit so you can observe the surroundings before coming out of your car. If you notice a car trailing you or a person idling around your gate, do not attempt to drive in but instead drive on to the nearest police station or raise an alarm.

If you can afford it, CCTV cameras are useful, often as a deterrent and after a crime as an investigative tool. Motion detectors can also help prevent crime but they can be set off by animals such as cats, making them less dependable than other security devices. A guard dog – a man’s best friend – is a reliable watchman and will not only be a deterrent but also attack invaders and also alert you. Many people have guards in their home, which is a deterrent, but you must ensure they are well trained in security matters. Everything you choose to do to protect your home depends on your location, your habits and your lifestyle.

3.Perform background checks of employees

Police records show majority of household thefts are organised by current or former employees, or people well known to the family or are familiar with the home. These are people who know your habits, lifestyle, and the kind of valuables you possess and where they are kept. One good way to prevent crime is to perform a thorough background check on all household employees, including nannies, maids, gardeners and security staff. If a potential employee has a criminal history or is not trustworthy especially when it comes to dealing with money, he or she may be more likely to steal from you.

When you hire domestic workers, go through an agency that does background checks or hire an investigation firm to do the check, or ask the police or chief of the area he or she comes from to help you with background information. If your staff are through referrals, ensure you also do through background checks to satisfy yourself. Even relatives are not to be fully trusted when it comes to security issues. Sometimes it is best to outsource certain workers like security as the employer becomes responsible for them and their actions. If you want your staff to give you loyal service be kind to them and treat them with dignity. Do not pay them peanuts when you are living extravagantly as this could tempt them to steal from you to make ends meet.

4. Don’t invite strangers into your home

Try to be careful when you invite strangers into your home, especially contractors, service providers and maintenance people. Even nationally well-known companies may have a poorly supervised workforce who may be a security risk to you. Ensure you have all the details of people who come into your home and don’t allow them to get in unsupervised. Ensure you check the identities of people claiming to be from the water or power companies coming to read the meters. If in doubt, call the company to verify before allowing them in.  If you do charity work, for example helping street families, do not bring them to your home unless you know them well and trust them. If you have young children, especially girls, protect them from workers by not leaving them alone in the house. Always ensure they are under the care of an adult you trust. Ensure your children and relatives don’t bring to your home ‘friends’ of dubious character.

5. Store your valuable documents securely

People often wonder where and how to store important documents in a secure manner. It is critical to have a centralized location for important documents such as wills, medical reports, financial statements, titles, share certificates and so on. It is important to have copies of all your documents stored outside your home, for example in your office or with somebody you trust. Banks also do store documents at a small fee and it is worth paying this in case something happens to your home.

Invest in a fireproof safe for documents you keep at home but ensure copies are securely kept elsewhere. You could also ensure your spouse and your grown-up children have copies of important family documents. It is important to have your important information in a place where your trusted friends, spouse or children can get to it, so that they can figure out what needs be done in case anything happens to you.

Published in December 2013

 

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