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 WESTVILLE COMMUNITY POLICING FORUM 
Article034 - Guard Huts 
Interesting discussion on so called false alarms with security systems. 31 August 2011

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Guard Huts (a philosophy additional to a mere structure)
About 10 years ago we had never heard of a house robbery. Bad guys coming into your home with guns! Good Lord, Iím leaving for Australia. Well, many did, and to that I say, Africa is not for sissies. We who stayed had to change our life styles to the change in the criminal environment. Our ancestors had to deal with stock theft and marauding tribes, we have criminals in double cabs with handguns. Itís about evolution, simple and clear. If you donít become one of the fitter zebras that run in the front of the pack, you will be brought down by a lion. The zebras have one major difference to us. They cannot fake or appear to be fitter, they have to be. We can get away with appearances. This is sometimes our shortfall.

I have lost count of the number of houses I have seen with expensive and intimidating sharp palisade fencing along the front of their property. Then you walk a few meters and see that the border between them and the neighbor is actually an old and rusty thigh high fence that a determined four year old could scale. I forget which chapter in the Criminal Handbook mentions that you may not enter one property, cross boundaries and break into the second house. For whatever reason, some of us educated and sane people seem to believe that. When I point it out I get the answer that boils my blood, ďJa, youíre right, hey.Ē

You canít fake security. Criminals are not stupid. They commit crime for one of two reasons. The second one is that they are professional and good at it. As sharp as you are in your job, they are in theirs, thatís why they get away it with more than they get arrested. If you are going to secure yourself then you need to properly research what you want to do and then do it properly. Think carefully now; you buy a huge gate that cost a fortune, attached it to the wall with rawl-bolts that could support the Titanic but you put a piss-poor little padlock on it. YOU tell me where the weak point is.

When you secure yourself and your family you need to do it in layers. Each has its specific function. An alarm will not save you from a heart attack, but a panic button will bring emergency services to you. A decent fence and good lighting will not help if you leave your gate unlocked. (Oh, ďtheyĒ lift them off the rails. Do they? See, we have become so lazy that we canít be bothered to go and get a great big piece of chain and padlock out gates closed. Oh, itís because itís too dangerous to get out the car outside your own driveway. Hold on, Iíll come wipe your nose if you sneeze too. Excuses are like assesÖ)

Back to layers; a guard hut has its place and function. The unarmed, pathetically paid human guard will not stop armed robbers or hijackers. He wonít stop a housebreaker or even a determined kid who wants to graffiti your wall. But there are functions that can be fulfilled.

First and foremost he is a pair of eyes and ears. He sees who comes past the road; he listens in the night for sounds of activity. All well and good except most of the time nobody bothers to ask him what heís seen or heard. A supported and motivated guard can supply you with a myriad of useful information from the description of suspicious cars or people to giving directions to your lost visitors. Itís up to YOU to support him, talk to him; keep him motivated. Bring him snacks, coffee, juice, supper; whatever to make him feel that he is more than just a guy in a box. Give him pencil and a notepad to write down stuff so he doesnít forget it. Make sure he has an FM radio, magazines, books or a newspaper. More importantly a torch! His brain must not be allowed to go into ďscreen saverĒ. Stop your car and talk to him. Encourage him to look out for suspicious activity. Make him feel like part of the community and part of the solution. (If your attitude is that you donít really trust him, then I have wasted my time and yours.) If he isnít linked to an armed response, give him a cheap-ass cell phone with R50 airtime and load it with the numbers of the Police, Fire and ambulance. Huh, didnít think of the second two, did you?

Second, he is a form of visible policing. The lowest form of force I can inflict is my mere physical presence. That in itself could be the difference between a crook going into your road, or moving on to the next. Why? The guard has seen him and has noted his description and registration number. (Not many dedicated housebreakers like to promote themselves to murder. Housebreaking is easy and low risk.) Have a chalk board hung outside with CONFIRMED details of suspicious vehicles. These you get from the CPF or the Police, not your paranoid neighbor.

Third, the hut shows organization. A well maintained and equipped, well lit, clean guard hut is a mini castle outpost. He is the first line of warning and defence. Sure he may well be overrun but he can sound the warning that danger is approaching. If a criminal sees a sharp guard and hut, he has doubts because he doesnít know how well the rest of the road is organized. Sure, this touches on appearances, but it is no bluff. Because a crook cruises an area before he strikes. He evaluates and tests reaction times and alertness. Not all false alarms are the wind. If your street watch is running like a Swiss watch, your guard hut is the crystal covering the face.

A good few years ago the greater Dawncliffe community started the whole Guard Hut thing. The fact that it ran for so long is a miracle on its own. The fact that it started dying was inevitable. People start bitching that others donít pay their share; some people want something for nothing. The fact is that nothing is for free. If you donít feel you should pay towards the hut then do a bit by giving him books or a newspaper or at least a few kind words.

Something like this is not self-sustaining. YOU (not someone else) have to put in the time and effort to make it work and work for you. Like a lot in life, what you put in is what you get out.
Posted by The Sarge at 3:49 PM