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Be prepared for crime in this way over festive season
It is a fact that serious violent crimes, including farm attacks and property-related crimes, tend to increase during the festive season. It is therefore of paramount importance that farmers, their families, workers or residents on farms and smallholdings, should follow safety measures or tips to improve their safety and help prevent crimes. This is according to Dr Jane Buys, Safety and Risk Analyst at Free State Agriculture (FSA).
“The VKB Safety Desk of FSA appeals to all farmers, their families and residents on farms, regardless of whether they are members of organized agriculture, to be part of a safety network or system in order to proactively look after their own safety,” she says.
According to her, it is better to act preventively. FSA also wants to draw the attention of farmers to the illegal hunting with dogs that can also increase during the festive season and that farms hosting initiation schools must be monitored properly. The latter can create a contributing environment for certain property-related theft such as stock theft.
Note the following basic safety measures for agricultural communities:
- In the micro environment (in and around the house): Make sure that safety starts with yourself. Protect your home with the necessary security gates, locks and burglar bars for windows. Keep security gates always locked and do not leave the keys unchecked (apply key management only). Replace keys for safety gates if keys are lost. Do not hide keys underneath doormats or in pot plant containers. Remove keys from vehicles and tractors if not used. Ensure that dangerous weapons such as axles, shovels, picks, crowbars and ladders are locked when not in use.
- Apply access control by installing remote-controlled gates, which are not blocked by shrubs or bushes, where possible. Install trail cameras wherever possible to pick up any movement in the direct environment around your home to send them to your mobile phone.
- Unknown people must be identified before conversing with them. Do not leave your house when dogs bark at night, even when your power is turned off. Contact your neighbours, the farm guard or network for assistance.
- Apply access control to your property by not allowing jobless people to lie around on the farm. If possible, install a security gate inside your home. A dog or dogs sleeping in your house is also recommended.
- When you come home, do not go into the house immediately. Inspect the area around your home to determine whether access was forced (that is if you do not have an alarm). See where your dogs are and what their behaviour is like.
- When it comes to employment, do not employ illegal immigrants. Do not get involved in illegal trade with citizens of a neighbouring country. Keep proper record of workers and residents on farms. Lead workers and make them part of contingency plans to be careful about suspicious persons and vehicles moving around in the area. Maintain good relationships with workers and residents on farms. Get information beforehand about possible crimes in your immediate environment.
- In the macro environment, make sure you put up Agri SA’s Farm Protocol signs at the entrance of your farm.
- Be part of safety structures between the South African Police Service (SAPS), farmers and farm guards in your area. Get involved with the Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) through actions like regular white and blue light patrols and know who is the SAPS and FSA (organized agriculture) safety coordinator in your area. Therefore become part of a safety “WhatsApp” groups that pass on proactive information.
- Get radio communication with a local radio network. Regularly test radio communications under the RSS in your area. Connect an additional cellphone that is placed in a strategic location inside the house and make sure it is always charged. Also be linked to further emergency call groups, for example, the mobile phone application called Die Plaaswag. Contact details and emergency numbers of neighbours, the SAPS and safety coordinators must always be nearby or saved on mobile phones.
- Report and link any information related to a crime to the SAPS and safety coordinator in your area. The unexplainable death of a watchdog must be seen as a warning sign.
According to Buys, greater safety on agricultural land is dependant on five core elements. They are improving relationships in the micro and macro environment among all stakeholders to ensure that communications networks are in place to call for assistance when there is an emergency and involvement and linking to safety structures or networks in your immediate environment (within the RSS). The regular giving through and liaison of information about crime activities and suspicious persons or vehicles to safety structures or networks, as well as the empowerment with knowledge and information to address certain crises within the framework of existing legislation, are also part of this.
“Everything comes down to farmers improving their readiness, they must observe what they see in their immediate environment and should not consider any activity or movement as too small or irrelevant,” Buys said. “Keep yourself, your family and workforce safe.”