Ever wondered what goes on in the minds of these crooks when planning a break-in or scoping out potential victims?
Sure, you might be living in a gated and guarded (G&G) development or there is an intricate CCTV network installed within your home, but a fortified enclave does not fully repel crime. Shamir Rajadurai reveals criminals’ top tricks and shares effective measures to help residents keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
How do burglars plan for break- ins in residential neighbourhoods, particularly G&G developments?
There are two kinds of burglars - sophisticated and brazen. Many are familiar with the latter – he is the parang-wielding goon who blatantly attacks a victim or your run-of-the- mill thief who strikes should the opportunity present itself. For instance, a criminally-inclined odd-job worker, say a grass-cutter who notices an unlocked grille or car will strike while the iron is hot.
Meanwhile, their more cunning counterparts are resourceful master- minds who bear the intention to commit a crime. Such felons will plan their heist down to the last detail and usually have the capital to help shape up a character/role. They will do what it takes - from renting a home within the target neighbourhood, familiarising themselves with the security guards’ Standards of Procedure (SOP) to chatting up neighbours to dig out information and spying on their neighbour’s daily routine.
It is frighteningly easy to rent a residential unit in most places within the Klang Valley, most landlords only require an Identification Card (IC) and proof of income.
Once these criminals hiding under the guise of tenants have made their getaway with the loot in tow, it is pretty easy for them to disappear and lay low. Savvy robbers will have planned beforehand to cover their tracks accordingly, making it difficult for cops to track down these bogus tenants.
How do burglars fool security guards?
1. Pretend to be a police officer
– an undercover investigation done by a local newspaper in Jan 2016 revealed that it is pretty easy for someone to purchase items supposedly exclusive to the police force.
2. Pose as a delivery guy – this is especially effective during festive seasons, most guards will not question someone bearing hampers or gifts.
3. Drive an expensive car – it is a matter of first impressions, all a burglar need to do is smile and wave. Guards are not to be blamed entirely for gross negligence; careless residents themselves have contributed to the problem. Many forget their resident cards and will cajole the guards to wave them through ‘this one time’. After a while, the guards will see no harm in waving in a ‘friendly’ face.
What do burglars look out for when targeting a home?
Most burglars do not want to deal with any fuss or possible identification, hence they will only make a move when no one is at home and will religiously check for a window of opportunity. There is one classic trick burglars swear by when scouting for a target home – they will study the main grille; is the lock placed on the outside or the inside of the grille? A padlock on the outside indicates that no one is at home, otherwise, it will be locked from the inside, as depicted below:
Robbers ‘due diligence’ includes going through your rubbish. Did you just throw that plasma screen TV box or your new laptop casing by your trash can outside? These signs are reason enough for a desperate criminal to break into your home. It is wise for residents to cut up any boxes or coverings of expensive gadgets and bin them properly; throw them at public dumpsters or just plain recycle them instead.
Does owning a guard dog make a difference? It depends on the type of neighbourhood. In posh residential areas, where burglars are certain that homeowners will have a stash of valuables at home, having a dog is a secondary measure as it can be easily drugged. Whereas in typical developments, a burglar will think twice as he might think it is not worth the extra effort – there might be nothing of value to steal anyway.
An interesting option for adventurous homeowners is to rear a goose! I learnt this tactic from the kampong-folk – a goose will only recognise its owner and it gets very violent towards intruders, besides creating a total ruckus.
Can you share examples where the concept of G&G developments sometimes backfire?
A prime example is when the police are called to help circumvent a crime and they actually have trouble accessing the neighbourhood or residential strata building. Some developments, especially high-end condominiums have really strict entry rules – it doesn’t matter if you are a police officer on duty or out to make an arrest, you will only be granted entry to a suspect’s unit should you possess a warrant.
This is why luxury condominiums are favoured by criminals, especially credit card scammers, online fraudsters and drug lords. Residents might complain of unsolicited behaviour to the cops, but should there not be sufficient evidence (which can only be gleaned by searching the suspect’s residence), the suspect can only be detained for 24 hours. If there is no order obtained from a Magistrate, these suspects are then free to go.
At the other end of the spectrum, many residential neighbourhoods have flimsy structures for guardhouses, making them easily penetrable. Should you drive around the Klang Valley, you will notice that many ‘guard houses’ consists of just a large umbrella and a stool!
The first point of access is always the guard house and if the design is not secure, guards are basically sitting ducks. Most neighbourhoods employ foreign security guards who are not allowed to possess weaponry - they can only hold batons and merely act as gatekeepers. How can they defend themselves against criminals who come bearing knives, parangs or worse, guns?
Besides that, many G&G developments favour the cul-de-sac design or a dead-end street. Although these are safer for children to play in as there is only one entrance for traffic cul-de-sacs are a double-edged sword as they make escaping tough too. The blocked-up street prevents a victim from running away and makes access difficult for emergency services.
Also, residents living on a cul-de-sac tend to let their guard down – Usually, you will look out a window when a car passes by your home but the cul- de-sac resident will assume it is just someone who made a wrong turn.
1. Malaysia’s crime index recorded a 4.6% growth from January-April 2016 due to an increase in property crimes, which comprised 12,216 motorcycle thefts, 6,662 house break-ins and 3,656 cases involving cars.
2. Snatch theft in Kuala Lumpur has risen significantly, informed KL’s deputy police chief, Datuk Mazlan Lazim – as of May, 348 cases have been reported in 2017 compared to 234 cases during the whole of 2016.
3. Based on police statistics, nearly 4,000 children went missing in 2014 and 2015 throughout Malaysia.
Why is it so easy for criminals to abduct innocent citizens from “supposedly-safe” areas?
Susceptibility to crime all boils down to negligence – guarded developments provide a false sense of security and most people take for granted that physical barriers and manned surveillance is sufficient to deter crime. One still has to be aware of their surroundings at all times and keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour.
Unmonitored online activity and excessive sharing on social media have further compounded the problem. All a felon has to do is to hit up their target’s Facebook account and they will be able to determine a person’s daily routines, where his child goes to school or when the family is on a holiday by going through the comments section. Parents especially should be a good role model and inculcate safe online practices among their children. Meanwhile, millennials should learn how to keep vital information private and utilise free internet safety tools.
What are your tips for keeping safe in residential neighbourhoods?
Nothing beats engagement and the power of the people when it comes to combating crime. Get to know your neighbours and have meaningful conversations with them, only then can a genuine bond be built.
Your neighbour is the one who will take action if he/she notice anything suspicious or call the police if they sense criminal activity. At the very least, they will help pick up your newspapers and water your plants while you are away.
Forming a Residents Association (RA) is the best tool for neighbourhood engagement. Residents were plagued with numerous break-ins in my own neighbourhood, Section 14, Petaling Jaya a few years back. Having had enough, the residents banded together and formed an RA where we took turns to patrol the neighbourhood. We even trooped down to the local police station and enlisted the help of the Jabatan Pencegahan Jenayah & Keselamatan Komuniti (JPJKK), who were glad to join us in scheduled
patrols and hosting educational safety programmes for residents.
Registering our RA with the local PRDM and local municipal council has proven to be a great move – it goes a long way in motivating residents to play a more active role in crime prevention and true enough, the crime rate in S14 has dropped to an all-time low.
When shopping for a home, take note of:
1. Street lighting at night - Are there many blind corners?
2. Neighbourhood’s landscaping – Too many trees and large shrubs are a bad thing as it gives thieves/criminals more cover and limits ‘eyes on the street’.
3. Placement of benches at playgrounds/parks – They must be strategically placed for parents to watch over their kids and not just serve an aesthetic purpose.