Recently some stuff got stolen from inside my house. It’s not a huge deal, because no one got hurt and nothing was irreplaceable.
But this is the fifth incidence of small crime I’ve experienced this year, and it really bummed me out. It also got me thinking; What can I do better to keep my stuff safe in South Africa?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that when something gets stolen people always ask the same questions. They want to know where you left it, was it visible, were you walking around, was the South Easter blowing, is the pope a Catholic? Basically, what you did wrong to have something stolen from you.
And let me tell you, it never matters where you left it, because it was always the wrong place.
Well meaning people can give you a long list of the things you have done wrong, which resulted in your property being stolen. Did you leave anything inside your car, your house, your own handbag? There could always have been a better place to leave your belongings.
I’ve spent many hours researching how to keep my stuff safe by having almost everything I own stolen from me over the past 13 months.
Here are a few tips to help you make sure your possessions don’t get stolen:
1. Don’t have any possessions. This might seem obvious, but the easiest way to keep crims from stealing your stuff, is to not have any stuff at all. It might be old fashioned, but people lived without cellphones, laptops, watches and cameras, cars and even clothes for millions of years, so try it for yourself and see how much of your stuff doesn’t get stolen.
2. Keep everything you own locked up in an underground safe, then throw away the key. Another obvious one, maybe, but you’d be surprised how many people carry their precious and expensive stuff like cellphones and sunglasses around with them in the world- even going so far as to drive their own cars around at night. Better locked away and never used than sorry, I always say.
3. If you insist on having possessions and carrying them around, make sure you keep them out of sight at all times. Don’t want your handbag to get stolen on Long Street? Carry it under your dress, Hun. Don’t want your car to get stolen from outside your house in Observatory? Park it inside your house, babe. Don’t ever, under any circumstances, use your phone in public. This is reckless behavior and can lead to the theft of your property.
4. If you live in a house and don’t have access to an underground safe, keep your curtains closed at all times and pile all your belongings in a heap in any windowless room. Nothing says “free buffet of goods for crims” like leaving your own items inside your own, locked house, behind a locked gate and six foot wall, within eyesight or much worse, arm’s length, of a window.
5. If you have a bicycle, don’t be a dum dum like me and leave it in the obvious place like inside your own electric garage. Put it somewhere unique, where crims won’t think to look for it, like on top of the roof of your building, under your bed or nailed to the wall in your bathroom.
6. Try not to go on holiday. Ever. Stats show that most people experience crime when they are on holiday. My own father had a jacket stolen from inside a property he and my mom were renting in Margate not five minutes after they arrived. This could have easily been avoided by staying home with the curtains drawn and the doors locked.
7. Dress like a homeless person. This should deter pick pockets from trying to steal your cellphone as you walk down a busy street in broad daylight. I can’t guarantee that you will enjoy a satisfying career dressed this way, but as long as you live according to the principles of “if you don’t own anything they can’t steal it from you” you will hardly even miss having a job and a home. In fact, you might adopt a new, homeless life, which will really eliminate the need for that underground safe.
8. Don’t be a night crawler. It’s as easy as not ever leaving the house after dark. Especially if you live in a dangerous neighborhood, a rich neighborhood, or anywhere else. As the sun starts to sink behind the horizon, make sure you lock all your doors, draw your curtains, pile your stuff in a heap in a windowless room, set your house alarm, hide under your covers and hope for the best.
9. Set everything you own on fire. There is nothing crims hate more than burnt stuff, so setting your items and even yourself on fire can be a handy way to keep crims and their grubby paws off you and your stuff.
10. Have good insurance. There’s nothing worse, after going through the trauma of having your stuff stolen (to avoid, see points 1-9) than an insurance company that will look for absolutely any excuse not to pay out. Even if you follow all my guidelines (see points 1-9), there’s a chance certain low-cost, short term insurance companies will find a reason not to pay you out.
Rather pay more for cover that guarantees that when you have the misfortune of experiencing crime, you won’t have to argue with ten people on the phone, send several threatening emails and consult with a lawyer friend before they pay you out.
I recently fired First for Women as my insurance company after they tried for weeks to refuse to pay out for a bicycle I’d been paying insurance on for four years. I signed up with G Van Cuyck, through Rory Mitchell (who I met through Twitter) and recently, when my iPad and iPhone got stolen from inside my home office, they paid out within a week. They are a bit more expensive than my old insurance company, but at least they pay out, which is better than having to set myself on fire.