After what has been 18 months of inner city living within Cape Town with very few incidents of any nature to report back on to all the naysayers back home, I finally had my first, first hand experience of some of the crime statistics we all hear about. But first lets look at some reality and some facts….
South Africa has an image problem in regards to some of its law and order statistics for sure. But there are always two sides to everything, and you often need to look at more than just the numbers, but some actual facts behind them. Recent numbers released from South African Police Service for 2018 show some staggering numbers – 2.09MM crimes committed (down 4.4%), more than 20,000 murders (averaging 57 per day!), residential robbery/ burglary (250,261), aggravated robbery (138,364) just to name a few of the categories…These numbers are not there to add fear or show an awesome amount of craziness or bravery in us living there, but to show what happens in South Africa, and when you see these, you have the typical reaction of ‘why the F#@#k would you go there…..?’
If you dig a bit deeper and realise that this is total South Africa, with 55MM+ people and Johannesburg, the largest city of more than 13MM has a mis-proportion of these statistics, with Cape Town and Durbin lessor so (but not none). When you look at Cape Town, there are daily multiple murders, robberies, shootings, etc…a large majority of these take place in and amongst the township areas such as Khyeliitsha, Philipi, Delft, Mitchells Plain etc, (see below conditions of such townships) where there is an ever concerning and growing gang related territory battle occurring with almost daily killings.
Bringing the facts and the location reality back into play lets look at the Cape town area itself. Cape Town CBD area has a couple of main street areas of focus, mainly Long Street which is the bar/ nightclub area and a few surrounding streets, as well as Kloof St. These areas are best not hung around alone after dark, as you are constantly harassed not only by the many street beggars after money or food, but there are professionals there as well offering drugs and anything else going, as well as regular muggings etc. Like many cities, best to have some street smarts here and some Melbourne and Sydney streets/ areas are also a big ‘dodgy’ at night time.
Cape Town has a poverty issue and the streets are littered with homeless residents, beggars of all ages and every corner has people with signs asking for help. This is quite sad, but the sadder part is you cannot be sure who are legitimate, and who are professional beggars, with all authorities stating not to give anything but rather go through some of the local charities. With this in some context, let me come back to my recent ‘brush’ with the Cape Town statistics.
A few weeks ago, whilst home alone on a normal mid-week night, I was awoken around 2.30am by my bedroom curtains moving. Thinking I had left a window open I ignored it for a while, then heard some other strange noises. I finally decided to check the windows, but they were shut…whilst strange I thought no more of it, then checked the double glass door next to the window (both of these are at the foot of my bed, leading to an outside courtyard area). When I moved the curtain back, to my shock two guys were at my door on their hands and knees attempting to leverage the door off its tracks to gain entry…
Once I had a moment of “Oh Shit, what do I do here” , stood there for a second to think what to do…they hadn’t seen me as the door has reflector shield on it, so they kept at their task at hand. I do have panic buttons to the armed response team in my bedroom, but decided against this as they would take some time, and they can’t get into the property as the fences are electrified and the gate needs to be remotely opened (not much use in actual fact). I banged on the window and got no response…. again, more “Oh crap” thoughts…so then I hut harder and yelled out “Oy Fu#@ off!” to which they both jumped up and ran around the side of the house, presumably up the side and over the fence to escape, and mitigating any risk towards me.
A tad shaken I went back to bed, thinking I had dodged a bullet, maybe literally!
After not being able to sleep for 20-30 minutes, I heard a banging…as it was windy I thought an inside door was just banging, so I lay there still. After a while it got the better of me, so I checked the downstairs doors and all ok, but I could still hear it. I went upstairs and nothing seemed out of place, then I heard the noise coming from outside, where a side door off our entry leads to the garage. Upon opening the front door (a tad hesitantly), I saw the second front door wide open, and the garage door banging open…”Oh shit, they had entered via the garage roller door on the street, then came out the side and front door, and around the side of the house to the rear bedroom, where I disrupted them”, my instant CSI skills determined…Upon looking at the garage, all that was in there of value was gone, including my bike, luggage etc…
Whilst no one was hurt fortunately, and the positive was this happened whilst no one else was home, it was a bit freaky to experience in real time. A few post incident reflections proved some stupidity on my behalf.
- There is an alarm beam on the side of the house, the rear of the house and garage, which I failed to activate out of complacency,
- The rear door security gap was something we had talked about fixing for some time, but didn’t (all other windows have bars on them except the main door directly to our bedroom – It does now!)
- We have cameras, but I hadn’t installed them (again, we do now).
Hindsight is good, and if this was our ‘Cape Town moment’, then this isn’t a bad story to tell, as items can be replaced, but it was a bit close to home so to speak.
I called the police the next day, and when talking to them, they said this was quite common and most probably drug related. The fact that no warning lights were on showing active alarms may not have helped the fact, and from what the police said, they had probably been watching for some time, and maybe they say the family leave and assumed the house was empty?
Having electrified wires on top of all perimeter fences had been a false safety blanket for me, as I assumed these would prevent anyone entering, but again after talking to people, I was told that these are simply avoided by throwing a mat/ cardboard or a blanket over them and then the fence can be accessed easily.
MY lesson was learnt the hard way, and only cost some personal items, but had I not got up and checked, who knows what they outcome would have been, as I am not sure how it would have played out had I been awoken by two guys standing at my bed!