*The following narrative is based on a true witness account of an attempted house break-in on 10th June, 2017*
I was all set for a chilled weekend indoors. Cold vanilla yoghurt, some cold soda, crisps and enough movies to last a lifetime. One of those weekends where it’s all about your phones and remotes, you know the feeling right? Or at least that was the plan. I was huddled up on my couch, all covered up in a duvet, when my phone rang. A text from mom.
Mom: Hi son, I hope you’re planning to come home next weekend but one? It’s going to be a public holiday that Monday.
I paused the movie. I felt a wave of nostalgia come over me. I haven’t been home in months.
Me: Hi mom, yes I am. Hopefully I’ll be able to come. Then I can travel back by the SGR.
It was a surprisingly quiet evening, especially for a Saturday in Kasarani. Loud matatu horns were blaring in the distance, but nothing else. I was about to press “Play” on my remote when I heard someone fumbling with my door. I got up and walked gingerly towards my door. I could see a flashlight shining through my curtain, as if someone was looking at the padlock.
I panicked. I whipped back the curtain and caught a glimpse of a man in a checked blue shirt and a white cap standing outside my door. I heard loud whispers behind him, and he turned briskly and walked away. I froze for a few moments, tried to shout but couldn’t make a sound. I picked my phone, fingers shaking uncontrollably, and tried calling the caretaker. No reply.
I went on WhatsApp and alerted my neighbours on what had just happened through the apartment’s WhatsApp group. The response was swift. The caretaker called me back immediately. Within minutes, I heard my neighbours, two floors up, screaming. Two of my neighbours had their houses broken into and electronics stolen.
I was still in shock. What if I hadn’t locked my door from the inside? What if they’d gotten in? The prospect of standing toe to toe with an unknown number of robbers, probably armed, shook me to the core. I still haven’t figured out how I’ll tell my mom that I nearly got robbed while texting her…
House break-ins are a common crime trend, particularly in the nation’s capital. While seasoned gangs and armed thugs might prefer to hit houses in high-end residential estates and leafy suburbs, other criminals find residential flats in areas such as Eastlands as easier targets. A look at the above case study reveals a number of vulnerabilities in the building’s security, loopholes which the burglars exploited to steal.
For starters, the building’s main entrance was not locked, giving the thugs easy access. While it is the landlord’s imperative to ensure a functioning lock is installed, it remains your responsibility to ensure that you lock the main entrance behind you when leaving or entering the building.
While we’re on the topic, you should also keep your door locked at all times, whether you’re in the house or not. If your doors have upper and lower latches, make use of these as well. If not, suggest that your landlord has these fixed on all doors or maybe even go the extra mile and do it yourself.
How well do you know your neighbour? If you came across a stranger on the staircase of your flat, would you know he or she doesn’t live there? In the case above, the building had formed an online community to ease communication, which is a good step. Be sure you know who lives around you, and be your neighbour’s keeper. Should you notice a stranger in the building, approach them and ask whether you can assist them in any way. This lets them know that you are onto them, and may deter some burglars.
According to our Senior Operations Manager John Ogutu, how we handle external service providers can also compromise our security.
“We need to be careful with service providers such as those who do our laundry, deliver gas or even fix our plumbing issues. It’s important to only have one trusted person rather than hire the services of a different person every weekend,” said Mr. Ogutu.
“It’s also advisable not to let them work without supervision, and don’t let them see more than they need to in your house. Sometimes they can take advantage and scout your house to rob you at a later date. In recent weeks for instance, there have been media reports linking service providers such as garbage collectors with house break-ins in Roysambu and its environs,” Mr. Ogutu added.
In the above-mentioned case, the landlord had the main entrance locks as well as the locks to each house changed, which is a good step as well. Should worst come to worst and you get robbed, be sure to change or reinforce your locks immediately.
Lastly, it would be advisable that we adopt counter-surveillance techniques in keeping our homes safe. More seasoned criminals prefer to scout and survey a potential target for a while, study their daily routine and commute, then find out the best times to break into your home. This could be anyone from the guys working at the hardware shop next to your building or the bodaboda operators at the stage. Try to vary the times you arrive and leave home every day if you can help it. Maybe even take this a step further and use a different route home if possible.
Hopefully, this will help you secure your home and avoid falling prey to such burglaries in future!