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News Room

Survive The Rampant Crime During Load Shedding

Jason Snyman
The dark is a criminal's playground, and thanks to Eskom, South Africans are more at risk than ever. It's Stage 6 load shedding! And the bad guys know exactly when and where to find homes without electricity.

Having to deal with breath-taking incompetence is just par for the course when talking about South African SOEs.  

A number of South Africans have taken to planning their days around Eskom’s convoluted load shedding schedules this week, only to have the power turned off, unannounced and unscheduled, mid-cake bake.  

Following technical problems at the ineffective Medupi power station, power utility Eskom skipped stages 1, 3 and 5 of load shedding entirely and jumped directly to stage 6 on Monday, requiring 6000MW to be shed.

Of course, the downside to these schedules actually being implemented correctly is that it basically gives criminals a complete list of which areas will be without electricity, and when, because yes, criminals also read the news. 

Nice to see you here, Mr Criminal. Sign up for life insurance below.

The reality is that criminals thrive in darkness, and they’re aware of the likelihood that many homes and businesses will be without security systems or perimeter defences during a blackout. Not to mention all those lovely hiding spots in your driveway. 

It’s barely been a week and there’s already been an upswing in crime during load shedding, and there are justified concerns about it escalating beyond all control during the festive season.

Last year, when this exact same problem occurred, Interpol's South African ambassador, Andy Mashaile, voiced his anxieties over the high rate of crime during the December month, particularly during a (not so) controlled black out.

Your flying squad, your public order policing, would serve best in the interest of the members of the community when they are deployed in an area where there’s going to be load shedding.

Well that’s a relief. 

So, what can we (as innocent citizens just trying to go about our day and pay taxes to keep black-hole SOEs afloat) do to ensure our own safety during load shedding?

Here are a couple of possible scenarios, and tips on how to handle them. 

Driving In The Dark

Some of us find late night driving to be relaxing. There’s no real traffic, it’s peaceful and temperatures are far more pleasant. But, let’s face it; driving in the dark could quickly go awry if you don’t keep your wits about you.

Many motorists absolutely despise it, and those with poorer eyesight even flat out refuse to do it. Our peripheral vision and depth perception are worsened at night, as is our ability to distinguish colour. With street lamps out during Eskom’s displays of ineptitude, there’s no assistance at night or during bad weather. 

We’re also far more fatigued and prone to dozing off behind the wheel, and then we’ve got the drunkards on the road to worry about.

There just isn’t a lot of room for error. 

While there are far fewer people driving at night, most car accidents still occur between midnight and 5am. And then, naturally, the dark adds another level of danger that many motorists aren’t too comfortable with. A filthy hijacker, for instance, could be lurking just out of sight. 

At one point or another though, we might all have to undertake a nocturnal journey, so it’s better to be prepared and develop confidence in driving in the dark.

Driving During The Day

As if traffic conditions weren’t soul-destroying enough, we now have to deal with traffic lights being off during load shedding as well.

Road safety organisation, Arrive Alive, recently released a statement addressing how drivers could maximise their own safety when load shedding hits during their commute. 

Here are a couple of very basic rules of the road which all drivers should know:

  • When traffic lights are out, intersections are treated as stop signs;
  • Drivers still have to stop at traffic lights which are out, even if there are no other cars nearby;
  • Drivers must then take turns to safely pass through the intersection.

Simple enough, right? And yet you would be surprised at how many people still block intersections, play with their phones, forget their indicators, change lanes without warning and behave in a reckless, discourteous manner each and every day. 

“We are all annoyed with load shedding, but we also have the same objective – to arrive alive at our destinations,” said Arrive Alive. 

Protecting Your Home

Sometimes it helps to be able to think like a criminal. To prevent a burglar from targeting your home, you need to know what they look for in a target. 

Logically, burglars would prefer to have your house to themselves. This is the fundamental difference between burglary and robbery – the presence of the victim. Though armed robbery is on the rise, burglary still occurs more often, and is one of the biggest sources of crime in South Africa.

According to News 24, nearly 70% of South African’s don’t feel safe at night, and that’s with all their security systems in place. Now, imagine removing that barrier entirely. 

Home invasion is a very real, terrifying threat in South Africa. Let's throw a couple of stats into the mix to completely ruin our sleep cycles:

  • 77% of residential robberies are committed with the help of household employees;
  • Criminals will monitor your home for as long as two weeks;
  • 97% of robbers are armed;
  • On average, an armed robbery gang has four members;
  • Three out of ten robbers have already committed murder, or won’t hesitate to commit murder;
  • The average robber commits 103 robberies over seven years before getting caught;
  • Criminals aren’t really deterred by alarms and armed reaction services in general. The possibility of them being disconnected thanks to load shedding just makes it easier for them.  

What Can You Do?

Not that it will always help, but check your load shedding schedule and try to plan ahead. Who knows, maybe people decide to start doing their jobs one day;

Having an emergency blackout kit at home is always a good idea. This includes a torch, candles, matches, batteries and even a charged powerbank for your phone. Keep it close by;

Keep your doors locked during load shedding;

The battery back up to your home’s alarm should give you at least an hour to work with. Double check that this battery is working;

Call your security alarm company and insist that it notifies you when detecting a power failure to your home or business;

If you’re away from your home or business, always treat alarm callouts with extreme caution – especially during a black out – and never go alone. Get your security company to meet you there;

There are several battery-operated magnetic alarms available on the market that can be attached to your front door or gate. These will alert you when that door or gate is opened;

If you’re looking at moving off of Eskom’s energy grid entirely – as many South Africans are – then it’s probably a good idea to invest in solar powered outdoor security lights. If you’re willing to MacGyver it, you could use a car battery and inverter to run a few LED spotlights;

Know your neighbours, and keep an open line of communication with them;

When driving, avoid travelling through areas experiencing load shedding at night wherever possible;

Drive slower to allow for more reaction time in the dark, and use your brights when there is no oncoming traffic;

Be aware of your surroundings and remain vigilant at all times;

And of course, invest in good household insurance to protect you from devastating loss. 

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