Let's be clear. There is no one single HUGE crowbar gang pillaging our country. Nope it's true there isn't. This is however a technique that has spread like wildfire in the criminal community around our country.
The hallmarks of a crowbar attack are as follows;
- Several suspects arrive, normally in a rented or stolen car
- They often use well dressed spotters walking up and down the road to find targets. No, they don't leave tell tale signs and coke bottles at wierd angles - they use whatsapp or sms
- Suspects tend to arrive during the day or early evening
- Entry is gained by lifting the sliding gates off the rails or forcing their way through the pedestrian gate
- A short crowbar is used to pry open gates and doors and gain access to the premises
- Outside, one suspect remains with the vehicle and gets the boot open and ready
- The suspects inside the house exit with TV's laptops and high value items
- They're into the car and headed away within minutes
This is why the technique is so effective;
- Entering the area is easy in a rented or stolen car that has false plates. The cars are neat, tidy and often quite expensive. The suspects are well dressed. This puts them off the radar in many cases to Neighborhood Watches and even security patrols. In an increasingly polite society, people are hesitant to cast aspersion on well dressed gentlemen in an expensive car for fear of being accused of "profiling".
- The time spent inside the house is absoloutely nominal, we are talking about 2-4 minutes really and this is ample for them to grab high value items.
- The exit from the area is typically cool, calm and collected - unless of course they're disturbed.
- The suspects park inside the property if they can as it attracts less attention and is less visible (except to the neighbour directly opposite of course)
- The stolen goods are easily sold on the black-market or exported to other African countries where they are sold at a premium
What are the risks and hinderances to the criminal?
- There may be someone home that they haven't noticed - this can be overcome with immediate acts of violence but increases the risk of getting caught
- The neighbours could report suspicious activity and their escape could be blocked -they're most vulnerable while they're inside the house. The "guard" outside is therefore usually armed to protect their escape
- Their flight back to their "storage" point for the stolen goods is the high risk period, where they could be stopped and asked why four men and a large TV are all squeezed into a car togather, daylight robberies are therefore easier because there is less chance of a random roadblock and they can blend into mainstream traffic in their neat car.
- Licence Plate Recognition cameras could tag them entering and area or leaving it - so using the same vehicle over and again is a bad option for crowbar attacks
What can we learn from the above? Firstly, the obvious is that without a weakpoint in the residents home security access is impeded or impossible. Residents should be strongly encouraged to fit after-market braces to their sliding gates to ensure that they cannot be lifted from the rails. Tamper proof housings would be strongly advised for electric gate motors. These housings need to be robust and sealed so that they cannot be reached through the gate. Lee-ways to the left and right of the gate need to be clear of obstruction and vegitation so that nobody can hide nearby and cover a sensor. If their "spotter" walking up and down the street walks up to a gate and places tape over the sensor of a gate, it may well still open but not close. Be aware of this.
Pedestrian gates are seldom sturdily locked. Being outdoors and attached to your boundary wall means that these gates are the easiest to reinforce and use really robust lock mechanisms. Ensure that the gate is well mounted and properly fitted with a high quality lock - in fact, ensure that it has the highest quality lock you can afford as it's the primary entry point to your home. If you stop criminals right there, they may never get onto the property.
Ensure that there is adequate lighting at night and in the early evening around the front gate and front door - lights will deter them as it can take a minute sometimes to crowbar a door open. The longer they're exposed standing in a brightly lit area, the higher the risk and less likely they are to take that chance.
Know your neighbors. Make a concerted effort to get to know your neighbors, their cars and their general movements. It's not about being nosy, it's about being able to recognise when something is out of place. Encourage your local police through the CPF to hold more random roadblocks and to give the community feedback on the results. The more random roadblocks the better the deterent value as it immediately increases the risk of capture to a crowbar crew.
Observe strange movements in your area. While four well dressed men in an expensive car are less suspect - one still has to ask why four men are travelling togather in one car? That alone requires investigtion and I would reccomend that you report it to your NHW, local security and SAPS forthwith.
CCTV can be an aid in seeing what happened after the fact and identifying suspects if the quality of the CCTV system is high enough. That being said, sufficient CCTV footage is floating about on a weekly basis of crowbar crews at work to show that it's obviously not a deterrent.
Keep lights on in the early evening to show that there is activity at home - even if this means using timer switches at dusk and in the early hours of the morning. Leave no indication that you are out like notes pinned to the door etc. Educate your domestic and gardener that they must keep the house doors locked at all times when they are at work and report anything suspicious immediately. Help them to understand the inherent dangers in talking to anyone who randomly comes to the door/gate.
Crowbar attacks are set to increase in residential suburbs as the modus is well tried and tested, the market for blackmarket goods is obviously greater than ever - and the appeal of shipping them to other countries is even greater. When working in syndicates, these goods are often shipped by container or large trucks to maximise their "return on investment".
Take the time to assess your home and perimiter security properly to reduce the chances of becoming a victim and definately take the time to get to know your neighbors and swap contact details with them.
Stay informed and stay safe.