Having recently experienced two break-ins a month apart, I’m prompted to share some of the practical things which I hadn’t given much thought to previously.
Although I only realised it afterwards, I ignored the first red flag – thinking something was strange but telling myself there was a logical explanation. The kitchen door leads to the garden, and I stepped out bending down next to my dog, speaking to her. I heard what sounded like the metallic side door which leads to the garden. I thought: ‘That’s strange, it sounds like my door.’ I immediately told myself that it was probably next door, even though I’ve never heard a similar sound coming from next door.
A little later, I saw someone through a bedroom window. The face was out of sight, and I assumed it was the teenager from next door who had returned. He had knocked on my door earlier that morning, sent by his mother to ask for my number as she had recently lost it together with her phone. I was about to go and open the door for him – which I had done earlier when he’d knocked – without seeing who it was or even asking. Then I realised it was someone pulling at the security gate and heard the gate rattling. I shouted at him and ran to push the panic button. I couldn’t immediately think about where the panic buttons were. Instead I ran to the keypad and armed the alarm, knowing it would be triggered by the sensors. Then I thought about the remote panic button, and wasn’t sure where it was. Then I found it and pushed the button. Immediately my phone rang - it was the armed response company. When it seemed like a long time before they arrived, I decided to call them back to check on the car they’d sent. In a state of panic, and fumbling through my phone, I couldn’t think of where to find their number. I realised the number I had for them was not the armed response number, but the office number. I looked for a phone book and could only find office branches. They finally arrived, after 12 minutes.
The driveway gate had been derailed. I learnt about anti-lift measures, and had these fitted. Now I’m conscious of where to find the panic buttons, and the remote panic button is always within reach. I also saved to my cellphone the armed response company’s emergency number, which is on the plaque on my wall. When the police came they gave me their patrol vehicle’s cell phone numbers, which ensures quicker response than dialling 10111. I saved these as ‘rapid response’ so that I don’t waste time looking for the right number.
Last night I had a nightmare. They were back, with glowing red eyes, which I saw through the door in the night. In my subconscious dream state, I had the presence of mind to press the panic button which I had at hand, and was holding my cellphone, about to dial the correct number which I knew exactly where to find.
The next break-in resulted in much damage to both gates and the wooden door. I instinctively thought of taking photos of the damage. I asked the repair man to leave the damaged door on my property in case the insurance sent an assessor. After a few weeks of struggling with insurance, they asked for photos. Luckily I could provide these.
The repair people spent a lot of time on repairs, which spanned over more than one day. Feeling vulnerable and paranoid, I was uncomfortable with them knowing I live on my own. I put a pair of my running shoes and a cap in the spare room, together with a self-defence book – to make it look like there is a man in the house. I always arranged for someone to be present when they were there. On later reflection, I felt like laughing when I realised that it had been three different male persons visiting.
Although I didn’t enjoy feeling like the victim on the block, I was grateful for the support from my neighbours -in five different households. It’s comforting to know that I have numbers for the neighbours around me – and their offers of assistance. I wonder what they’d think if I suggested a street braai…
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