Increase in domestic burglaries during extended shutdown periods

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The shedding of cargo, which is currently a daily occurrence in South Africa, is more than just a major inconvenience – it is also a crime risk and has led to an increase in home burglaries and car accidents.

Insurer Dialdirect said it compared the number of break-in incidents and vehicle accidents when there was no load shedding compared to when there was from July 2019 to May 2022 and that during the week, load shedding resulted in a 3.2% increase in break-ins and a 5.2% increase in vehicle accidents.

Over the weekend, these numbers more than doubled, increasing the risk of burglaries by 8% and the risk of car accidents by 13.5%.

“The dangerous consequences of load shedding are when street lamps and traffic lights are off at night. Motorists are encouraged to drive carefully at all times, but especially in poorly lit areas. Treat all non-functioning traffic lights as a four-way stop and if in doubt give way to oncoming traffic from the right.

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“Don’t assume that all the other drivers will stop, so be extremely vigilant and drive defensively,” said Anneli Retief, head of Dialdirect.

On the home front, when the lights go out, so do the alarm systems, gate motors and electric gates, making it easier for criminals to access and spend longer in your property.

“Most insurance companies write in their contracts that the house alarm must always be activated when the house is not occupied. So if your home is broken into during a power outage, your theft-related coverage would theoretically be wrong,” Retief said.

“We believe that load shedding is beyond the control of our customers and therefore they should not be penalized for it. As such, each case is judged on its own merits.”

Private security firm Fidelity ADT said that with extended power outages, many alarm battery systems fail to fully charge, which criminals take advantage of. Community police forums have also reported increased home burglaries, cable theft and theft of generators during load shedding.

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Dialdirect urges South Africans to take extra precautions at home and on the road to prevent loss and damage to property and provides the following tips for staying safe:

Home

  • Put the suggested shutdown times in a convenient place so that your family has enough time to prepare for the outage.
  • Buy some high wattage solar lights for your garden and some LED lights for indoors. Light is also a deterrent to potential burglars.
  • Keep your cell phone charged or invest in a portable phone charger so you can still call for help if you need it.
  • If you have to manually open and close your gates when you get home, try having someone come to your entrance, or arrange an escort from your security company.
  • Use padlocks, burglars and deadbolts to provide an extra level of home security that doesn’t rely on power.
  • Alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates generally rely on electricity, so make sure these items all have good backup batteries.
  • Store a flashlight or solar-powered lamp that has been pre-charged in multiple, easily accessible locations in your home. Also make sure you have enough spare batteries.
  • Ensure that all appliances – especially appliances that pose a fire risk if left unattended – are turned off when load shedding begins and gradually turned back on once power is back on to minimize grid strain. Load shedding increases the risk of power surges, often leading to damage to household appliances. While power surge insurance is available, it’s best to unplug appliances and appliances at risk before the storm comes.
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