With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, New Era's Lorraine Kazondovicaught up with Windhoek City Police Senior Superintendent Gerry Shikesho (GS) and Windhoek City Police Chief Abraham Kanime (AK).
The purpose of the interview was to canvass expert advice on how the public can protect their property during the festive season.
Senior Superintendent Shikesho, what advice do you have for homeowners to keep their homes burglar-proof throughout the festive season and to minimise losses from housebreakings?
"There are four possible solutions to prevent housebreaking. Leave the property attended by a trusted individual, encourage neighbourhood watch by asking your neighbour to keep an eye on your property or hire a security guard. There are 19 zones in Windhoek and there is always an officer on patrol in each zone. Call the City Police and give details of your property to ensure regular patrols of your home if you will be leaving town. However, do not expect the City Police to guard your property. Despite this advice, homeowners should be obligated to take precautionary measures such as locking doors and windows, hiding car keys if you will be leaving your vehicle at home and making sure that your alarm system is functioning properly, among others. If you have big trees or garden shrubs, make sure that the branches are properly pruned to prevent criminals from climbing into your yard or hiding behind the shrubs in your garden."
What are the most common mistakes committed by homeowners that make their homes vulnerable to burglary?
"We do not see much organised crime, but we see more opportunistic crimes. Three pillars must exist for any crime to be committed, that is the suspect, the victim and the opportunity. Criminals will not pass up an opportunity to execute a crime, such as when your windows are left open and there are valuables such as laptops and I-pads within reach. If the environment is conducive, the criminal will take that chance. You should always take the basic security measures into consideration. You may not like your neighbour, but what we all have in common is the neighbourhood. Your neighbours know your movements better than anyone else. They know when you leave and they know when you return. Neighbourhood watch is the best form of community policing. Speak to your neighbours and inform them of your movements."
What are the major reasons for the upsurge in crime during this time of the year?
"Opportunity and the carelessness of residents are the major causes. However, it is not entirely true that the crime rate increases during this time of the year; these are general statements. Only crime statistics provide the real picture. We do not put up festive season operations, however we set up objectives for the financial year such as reducing robbery to 10 percent or reducing assault to 38 percent. We come up with solutions to reach these desired rates. For example, violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder, rape and robbery decreased from 62 incidents during this time of the year last year to 54 incidents this year. My point is that we cannot confirm that crime increases because of the festive season, unless the statistics reflect that. However, opportunistic crime increases during this time, because people become careless and reckless. We also have visitors from out of town who do not know the Windhoek life style."
"During this time of the year most people leave their property unattended. Criminals capitalise on this opportunity and break in. Criminals want something for their pockets during the holidays and try hard to get their hands on anything. Most people also carry cash for spending. We get a
What are the most common crimes committed during this time of the year? And why is that so?
"The most opportunistic crimes committed are housebreaking, theft out of motor vehicles, theft at ATMs, shoplifting, as well as theft from an employer. The main reasons are because properties are left unattended, criminals want something for the festive season and people carry loads of cash on them. "
Criminals are becoming more skilful in executing their crimes, how can we equip ourselves to experience a crime-free festive season?
AK: "Criminals are not necessarily skilful but they are initiators. They do their homework and plan without giving warning that they are coming for you. In most cases, people are caught off guard. This makes the City Police more pro-active in their operations and education is critical in that context. We have produced various leaflets, which we have started distributing to alert the community on the prevention of ATM theft, housebreaking and robbery, among others. We also have other measures in place to make us more pro-active. The best police officer is your neighbour. If you have a good relationship you can keep an eye on each other's property. We are also involved in zonal policing with officers allocated to each zone. Call us if there are suspicious or unusual movements and we will be there. Examples of unusual movements could be movement in your back yard, people sitting on street corners or dogs barking. If you are going out of town, inform us to patrol and check your property from time to time. Do not visibly leave valuable items in your car and when you lock your car make sure that your alarm is responsive. Do not park your car in isolated areas and if you are in possession of valuables such as firearms or cash, leave them with the police or the bank for safekeeping. You can also take valuables to security companies and have them overnight there. Do not keep lots of cash on your person. Avoid going into deserted streets or riverbeds at odd hours of the night. Be vigilant when people are coming closer to you. Use lighted, bright streets when you are moving around. Do not carry valuables such as laptops and cellphones in isolated areas. Do not visit the ATM late at night and use ATM machines that are guarded by security guards. Protect your PIN code, do not allow anyone else to come too close to you. Do not lose sight of your card when using swiping facilities as it can easily be cloned. Excessive use of alcohol also makes you vulnerable to rape, murder or assault. I always advise residents to reduce their alcohol intake and rather to spend time in socially constructive activities."
What loopholes do criminals generally look for before committing a crimes?
"It depends on the type of crime. Ignorance is the major cause of crimes such as leaving your property unattended. Alarms are no longer an obstacle for criminals. Inform your neighbour, inform the City Police and leave someone to attend to your house if you will be leaving town. Criminals look for ignorant people who park their cars in isolated areas, people who do not check if their alarms have responded or people who accept the assistance of anyone at an ATM."
What are the measures that you have put in place to combat crime over the festive season?
"The combating of crime is a daily practice and the strategy in place is based on four pillars - zonal policing, community policing, intelligence-led policing, as well as the use of technology such as CCTV cameras which are found all across the city. We are working hard to install more cameras during the festive season with a 24-hour monitoring crew. Intelligence-led policing comprises a fully dedicated team that collects information on suspected criminals, and profiles and tail them. We call on the public to give us information on suspected criminals or criminal activities. The difference during the festive season is that we have intensified our operations, because most of our members will not be enjoying Christmas with their families. We will be on duty and we will work extended hours to ensure that proper service is rendered. We are proud to be doing that."
What advice would you give to an individual who has experienced a crime?
"You should know these numbers - call 302302 or SMS 4444. These are the numbers that you should save and know once you have experienced
What tips can help homeowners to minimise the risk of becoming statistics of housebreaking?
"Call the City Police to discuss your neighbourhood. Call Superintendent Mootseng at 0811296865, Chief Kanime at 0811244479 or Senior Superintendent Shikesho at 0811220156. Call us to do an assessment of your neighbourhood. Secondly, make sure someone is attending to your house or make sure that your neighbour is informed about your absence and inform the City Police of your absence. If you hear any movement such as disturbances at your door, people moving about or dogs barking, call us. Save the numbers 302302 and SMS number 4444 and have them pop up first on your phone for faster access to our services."
What role do you think neighbourhood watch could play to reduce house-breakings and other crimes?
"Criminals will easily succeed in a divided community. But a criminal will not be able to penetrate a united community with a common goal since they will be detected easily and reported.
"Neighbourhood watch is vital; it is able to detect beforehand and prevent crime. Neighbourhood watch and a link with the police will ensure prevention instead of arrests."
Is there any other information you would like to share with our readers?
"Yes. I am concerned about drug and alcohol abuse. We want the public to give us information on drug dealings and for the community to refrain from extensive alcohol use. Rather spend time on issues of social development.
"As for the road users, please do not drive while under the influence, do not drive when you are exhausted, do not speed, always wear your seatbelts, rest after every two to three hours, check the roadworthiness of your car and do not overload. We wish all road users and residents a happy festive season!"