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The hidden costs of crime

2015-06-08 18:15

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Alison Visser, City Press


It’s the call every parent dreads. All you hear on the other side of the line is your home alarm going off and the most awful screaming. You slip into South African Survival mode quite easily as you make an illegal U-turn and hightail it back home, calling the security company, mobilising the neighbourhood watch, and phoning your spouse, trying not to focus on the fact that your two young children are at home alone with the nanny. 

By the time you arrive home, it looks like the FBI have just swooped on a suspect à la CSI (or any other crime-related TV programme). The security company dispatched two vehicles, all the neighbours have descended, and others stopped on their way home from the school run. 

“Positive break-in, but everyone’s fine,” they assure you.  It’s only once you’re walking up the driveway that it hits you. The two pale little faces, peering anxiously at you. The mangled security door. The front door lying in pieces. It didn’t stand a chance from the brutes and their force. They weren’t armed with guns, but axes are pretty scary when you’re not using them to chop up braai wood. 

The cops, surprisingly swift, send out two uniforms, followed by three detectives, followed by the captain. The fingerprint guy arrives that evening. Not quite a cast member of CSI he fails to find a single print. The loot? A rather crappy TV and a cellphone. Whew, you got off lightly. Or have you? 

The admin starts. Two claims have to be opened with the insurance company, because the busted gate motor, security doors, front door and broken alarm system fall under building insurance. The contents fall under household insurance. The excess is excessive. 

You arrange for an armed guard to hang out for the night while you pretend to sleep. Because the assessor takes five days (two were a weekend, but still add up when you are living in a house with no front door) to arrive, you nip out to the local security shop to invest in their thickest chains and most expensive locks. Ka-ching, ka-ching. One lock costs hundreds, but is worth every cent, you are assured. 

You have to replace the cellphone yourself because it’s not insured. The broken picture frame, smashed as the thugs smashed through the door, isn’t even included in the claim. It will cost hundreds to fix. 

Time is certainly a factor. It takes you 10 minutes to leave the property, unlocking and locking as you go along. And then there are the minds. The little ones have been traumatised. The nanny, who has always been paranoid, is now a mess.

Counselling all round ... including for the parents? Google it. You will be shocked at what a couple of sessions will set you back. 
Sleep. You can’t put a price on it. It becomes a desirable commodity once you aren’t getting any. The kids have nightmares and keep waking up. Your once decent-sized bed is way too small for four. 

Your insurance payments increase. Your neighbours’ insurance payments increase thanks to the incredible talent of the insurance company to secure crime statistics – something the media haven’t been able to do in years. 

Security improvements should probably be in the pipeline. You’re just not sure what? A heavy gate and the metal thing that ensured it “couldn’t be moved off the rails” wasn’t good enough. Outside alarm sensors being activated didn’t scare them off, and neither did a barking dog. The doors – including the security ones – were like putty under a lot of muscle and some decent tools. Maybe CCTV cameras would help? 

Putting the house on the market is discussed. But where to go ... Emigrating is an option, although not a popular one. It would also mean at least 10 people would lose their salaries – two employed at home and eight at the small business you operate. It’s almost the cost of a fire pool in lost tax revenue. The suffering caused to the president would be immeasurable. Imagine all the therapy that would be needed – Number One, the wives, the kids, the grandkids. 
And all this for one crappy TV set and a cellphone.

Read more on:    johannesbrug  |  crime

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