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Concentric layers of security

Most people are surprised to learn that security studies go as high as bachelor degree level. In some countries doctorates in security studies are available. The study of security sciences shows us that there are different models of security and that when applied correctly, these models can be measured and audited. 

In this section I’ll concentrate on one specific model which is the theory of concentric circles of security (more about this later). 

Once you have a security model to work from, the rest is down to a little preparation and a lot of negotiation with contractors.  

Let’s take a moment and consider a castle. It has a moat, a drawbridge, and parapets for lookouts. It is well fortified! Draw a castle and its basic security and you will see concentric circles of security. Each ring around a castle provides a barrier that someone would have to bypass in order to reach the inner dwellings. This is the theory of concentric rings, and it can be applied to our modern-day security in a simple diagram:


At the outskirts, we have residential patrols such as Crime Watch (or perhaps your neighbourhood watch if you’re not in the Milnerton Proper area), armed response, alert neighbours and the SAPS sector vehicle which should be actively maintaining a visible presence throughout the area to deter any opportunistic criminals and spot suspicious movements in the area before they have the chance to reach your property. 

Should a criminal slip through the gaps (and yes, all patrols have gaps) they need to breach the next layer of your security which is your boundary fence or wall, and they will then need to cross your garden to reach the house. In the garden they may have to move past motion activated lights at night, or simply walk straight up to the house in the day. This is also where they would encounter your dog if you have one. 

Providing they penetrate those defences, they then have to breach the physical layer of your security – the windows, burglar bars, gates and doors to your home. If they get through this layer, they have to contend with your internal burglar alarm and panic button. 

Assuming that a criminal has made it through these layers, they then need to take what they want and of course escape through the same layers ideally without being seen. 

Typically, most homes have these layers of security and yet they still fall prey to criminals. 

Over the years I have visited hundreds of homes and commercial premises that have been broken into or that I’ve surveyed on behalf of clients. These sites range from stately residences in the best suburbs to modest homes in less affluent areas.  Experience has shown me that the easiest way through all layers of security is the simplest. 

Called ‘social engineering’ it involves a criminal dressing, looking and acting as though they actually belong in the area and on the property. Our perceptions are engineered to view someone like this as unthreatening, and we won’t pay attention while they check out our area. A drive through the suburb with a confused look and a map or GPS can easily see a criminal pass as low or no risk while they scope out the neighbourhood. Similarly, handing out flyers door to door or knocking will do the trick. With a little scoping work while going about their ‘business’ a criminal can easily spot a good target and relay this information to a cohort who will decide when the best time will be to strike. 

With an idea of what they’re out to achieve, the criminal then approaches the house in a respectable vehicle dressed appropriately – either in business or working attire – and gains quick entry through gates by bouncing them from their rails or forcing the lock (a technique that a practised criminal can execute in seconds without being seen). 

Once on the property and through the initial layers of security, the criminal now only has to bypass windows, gates, doors and burglar bars and he’s in. Defeating an alarm system is equally not much of a feat for many criminals since so many people are obliged to use the cheapest possible alarm system and frequently have these badly installed by tradesmen without the relevant qualifications and experience. Getting through burglar bars is quite simple with the right leverage and practice or if the criminal is small enough. Gaining access is obviously even easier if a homeowner has been kind enough to leave a window open for ventilation or pets. 

Ultimately, the average homeowner is the criminal’s greatest asset. Human nature counts against us in the fight against crime. We’re naturally relaxed in our home environment and tend to drop our guard when things have been safe for a period of time. Similarly, we’re prudent when it comes to spending money – especially when we’re not 100% familiar with what we’re buying. This results in the installation of cheap locks, badly fitted burglar bars and substandard alarm systems. However, this doesn’t mean that buying the most expensive is any guarantee either. Later in this chapter I will arm you with some basic knowledge to work your way around these challenges. 

So how can the average homeowner protect and improve the integrity of each layer of security to place a ring of steel around their loved ones and possessions?

Good residential security requires the following:

• Knowledge of what resources are available to you and how to use them.

• Solid walls or gates that deter entry but offer practical daily living.

• Locks that are suitable for their intended purpose and properly fitted.

• Appropriate and attractive burglar bars that are fitted the hard way – the only way.

• Solid doors where necessary.

• Gates that are practical, maintained and sturdy.

• Alarm systems that are fitted to nothing less than South African Intruder Detection Services Association (SAIDSA) standard and serviced and tested regularly.

• Outdoor lighting that is attractive and functional.

• Environmental security within your garden (proper trimming and vegetation selection).

• As much knowledge about your area and crime in your area as possible.

• A relationship with your neighbours in which you at least know them by name and how to contact them. 


In this chapter we will deal with the individual layers of security and how you can test and improve each one to ensure that you have maximum protection within each layer. By strengthening each layer you will effectively create a greater deterrent to opportunistic criminals while also attacking the average criminal’s main enemy – time! 

You will discover that strengthening each layer of security is more about planning and preparation than actual work and even more pleasantly you’ll find that it’s not a tremendously expensive exercise.

Consider how difficult a criminal’s life would become if each person in your road strengthened their layers, each layer overlapping the next. Rounded off with a good patrolling eye you would have a road that offered very little to a criminal apart from hard targets and the high risk of being caught. 

This chapter is divided into two sections. In the first section we’ll discuss ‘the human factor’ – how human resources such as the police and residential patrols play a role in our home security. In the second section we’ll discuss ‘the hardware factor’ – the physical components of home security such as gates, locks and burglar bars.

Copyright: Craig Pedersen 2014.