Is your home safe for the holidays? Dubai residents call for a neighbourhood watch

“Prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” comes the rejoinder from one of the UAE’s top security firms, even as several local community members discuss the need for a neighbourhood watch initiative with the onset of the summer holidays.

Despite Dubai Police’s initiative of introducing a Housing Security Programme for independent homes and villas, several residents discussed that an added community initiative would simply lend additional support to the mechanics already set in place.

Bonnie L, who resides in the gated community of Arabian Ranches, said: “I am a mother of two, with my husband frequently travelling out of town for business. Even with the security protocols already in place in the community, I think a neighbourhood watch – like what we have back in the US – would simply give me a little more peace of mind when I’m home alone.”

Michael Silverman from Dubai’s Springs, also a gated community, said: “A few years ago, we were living in an independent villa in Mirdiff and while we were away for the holidays, our home was broken into.

“We only discovered what had happened after we returned and by then, even the authorities didn’t have much to go on. After the incident, we decided to move to a gated community where we felt safer.”

Silverman said he believed the incident could have been avoided had a neighbourhood watch initiative been set in place.

Originating in the US back in the 1960s, the neighbourhood watch initiative involves residents of private communities patrolling and keeping a lookout for suspicious activities around their homes, which is then reported to the officials.

Tej B Raj Lohia from Eagle Hunters Security said that crime is on the increase in the UAE, saying: “It is evident that home safety and security has become a pressing concern in the UAE. Cases of robbery and domestic assault, in particular, are exceptionally frequent.

“In fact, these instances of crime are no longer relegated to the rundown parts of the city but finding their way into gated neighbourhoods and heavily monitored areas.”

Security concerns

Back in 2004, the Dubai Police launched the Housing Security Programme, a free service that is similar to the neighbourhood watch concept, which blankets those residing in independent homes and community villas for added security measures, especially when residents are travelling away for the holidays.

When informed, Vikram Singh, an Umm Sequim resident, said: “I was quite unaware that such a service exists in Dubai. However, despite being vigilante in practising safety measures while travelling, my wife is always on tenterhooks about the house when we leave for the holidays.”

Lohia, meanwhile, reiterated that villas and independent homes are more vulnerable than residential towers, saying: “Villas and independent homes have far more points of entry and exit, which makes it prime ground for robberies.

“However, instances of crime have frequented residential towers as well, though keep in mind that everything can be prevented by practising safety and security at all times.”

He continued: “Prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Ideally we would want UAE residents to all become confident safety practitioners by educating them regularly on how best to observe, orient, decide and act when faced with a compromising situation.

“In turn, attaining valuable, transferable, skills, which should over time significantly reduce the rate of crime and robbery within the nation, easing the need for vigilance in the first place.

“Sadly, however, when it comes to personal safety most people don't think about it until they have a need.”

Protect yourself

Capt Saud Salem of the Housing Security Programme earlier provided a few tips and measures that residents in apartments should adopt when travelling over the holidays, stating that informing neighbours of their absence can go a long way.

He said: “Neighbours can watch out for your home, while residents should ensure that the water and electricity is switched off in their absence. Also, make sure all access points into the home, including windows, doors are all securely locked.

“An added measure is, either employ a safe in the house or purchase an external locker to keep all your jewellery and cash. If it’s not at home, chances of things being burglarised do not exist.”

Lohia agreed, saying: “Simple foresight when picking a home is choosing one with adequate CCTV presence and security patrol is a great start in ensuring a safer future for you and your loved ones.

“Similarly, if you live in a high rise, you can support building security and management with crime prevention by monitoring loop routes that you feel which may cause a security lapse or inform security about loitering strangers inside and outside the building.”

He added that if you are heading home for the holidays, aside from informing any close neighbours regarding your vacation, also have any family nearby to frequently check up on the house.

“Plus, use a high quality knob-in-lock set with a dead latch mechanism so door knobs cannot be accessed easily. Best practice is to affix an intruder alarm system in your house,” he stressed.

Other security measures recommended include, if residents are stepping out for a few hours, “leave a light or two on or maybe even the TV – especially if you live in a house or villa.

“You want to give the intruder the impression that the house is full.

“If possible, install an emergency telephone system at home and on your mobile phone so that pressing a single digit alerts the authorities for immediate assistance,” Lohia added.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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