Do you take your security seriously?

Most people will confidently say that they “have” security. They have gates, burglar guards, locks, alarm systems, cctv cameras and these magical beams zigzagging across the garden. Most people will also say they are “with” ABCD Security company and opinions of said company range from “they are the best” to “they are utterly useless.” Often the range of opinions vary in both directions for just about every security company depending on how fast they came the last time a button was pushed, call made or sensor tripped. Opinions also depend on phase of the moon, wind direction and weather your dog pulled down the washing again. See, although we humans relate to “security” as things around us, or things that come running with bullet proof vests, I argue that these are actually defined as “products”. You purchase and install gates, alarm systems, locks and beams. Security, by definition is “a state of being free from danger or threat.”

This now causes a bit of a quandary. Because the same people who say they “have security” very often also repeat my very favourite cliches, “we are living in fear/ a war zone”. You can only believe one, certainly not both, hence my separation of definitions of security and products.

The challenge is this, products are mechanical and/or electronic things and human people. Firstly note they are prone to breakdown and failure. When last did you call ABCD Security company and tell them you are going to run a test on those magic “panic buttons” attached to random walls in your home? See, they work by one means. You activate them, arm, switch them on or lock them and then they do what they are supposed to, ie stay locked/armed. They do not magically operate by themselves. If you don’t arm your alarm, it isn’t going to signal your monitoring company that something in zone 2 has triggered the system. If you don’t close and lock doors and gates, people will walk through them. And stretching the example to the SAPS, Metro Police and Security patrols, if you don’t make the call to them and say what you want, they can’t do it. Last night I followed a Facebook thread nogal, on a CPF page. A person had put out a warning of a suspicious vehicle in the area right then. Now, my eye narrowing, ear bleeding, tongue swelling, throat closing, heart palpitating opinions of people using Facebook to warn of impending crime aside, I asked after several dozen comments, if anyone had called the SAPS. Picture the old Windows screensaver slowly wandering around the face of your VGA monitor with a cricket chirping under your couch.

Good people, you only “have” security if all the products and features you have purchased actually do their jobs with your brains driving them. And here I come to the crux of the article. CCTV cameras. Many, many people have “security” cameras installed around their homes. But woefully few are of any use to man or beast. House x has a break in. We seek footage to aid the investigation. I hate to tell you how often we have the following results.

  1. No, the camera doesn’t record.
  2. My hard drive was full so we switched it off.
  3. It’s just for show (like that really worked)
  4. The footage is such poor quality you can’t tell if the vehicle in the driveway is a Toyota Corolla or a Mercedes Benz S series (let alone the registration plate).
  5. The part we really want to see (vehicle registration/people’s faces) is completely obscured by a) a big strip of metal across the bottom of the gate (so that the dog doesn’t get out) b) A beautiful but overgrown bougainvillea or c) crud on the lens.

Now it’s your money. You can spend it any way you please. You can light cigars with R200 notes, I don’t care, but if you are going to spend it on something that is apparently quite serious, why do you do half a job? Imagine that camera is the key to solving a spate of serious robberies in your area, and the best you can offer is one of my above excuses. We spend thousands of Rands every month on entertainment, but will scrimp on a grand when installing a good quality cctv camera. Why would you not want the best possible product you can get? Why don’t or didn’t you check to see what it picks up at night? And pray why did you put it at such a high angle the picture we have of the suspect is the top of his head? What I fear I have preached for many years, is still going on. We follow formulas and tick boxes. Alarm-check, Rottweiler-check, Beams, camera, razor wire, rubber snake- check check check and check. Do we really care if it all works together or is actually useful in any level. Note the . and not the ?.

When I’ve done anti-hijacking courses I’ve asked people two simple questions: 1. If you had to hijack yourself, where and how would you do it? 2. What could you offer the Police in terms of evidence to assist the investigation?

We have to take critical looks at our homes, workplaces and procedures. What does that “Protected by ABCD Security Armed Response” sign on your fence even mean if the products and systems you have in place cant do the job you have paid for. Until then, “security” in my opinion, is a myth.

It’s your life. Take it seriously.

Article re-posted with permission from Sgt. Clark of the Westville SAPS. Like him on Facebook. Original article can be found here.

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