Safety tips this festive season

Safety tips this festive season

By Llyod Gitonga

Ahead of the festive season, Securex C.E.O Tony Sahni discusses some common crime trends noted in Christmases past and how to steer clear of the threats.

“Even amidst the frivolities of the festive season, criminal elements lurk among us. We often remind ourselves to remember the reason for the season; this time let us remember to stay safe while commemorating the occasion.”

The holidays often pose a unique challenge to most business and home owners. Now, I would forgive you if perhaps you thought that by this I meant picking a holiday destination, booking your travel, or whether to pack your swimming trunks or wear shorts to the beach for a change. Historically speaking, certain crime patterns tend to rear their ugly heads over and over each holiday season. In fact, in the build-up to this holiday season, we have already seen some of these trends taking shape across the country.

Take, for instance, reports of carjacking and highway robbery that have increased in recent months, particularly at points along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway like Gilgil and Naivasha. Organized crime in Butere, Mumias, Mombasa, Mandera and Meru has repeatedly been highlighted in media and police reports; while some gangs opt for more covert tactics like drugging revellers in bars in Thika.

These security challenges are what we sometimes fail to address and prepare for in good time. Care needs to be taken to avoid becoming soft targets to these forms of crime this holiday season.

  1. Carjacking:

Christmas tradition dictates that we criss-cross the country to share some festive cheer with family. Whether via public means, private or hired vehicle, most of us will be on the road over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, criminals anticipate this as well. Reports of highway robbery at Voi along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway road for instance are not unheard of. More common is ambushes by gangs at Gilgil and Karai, near Naivasha, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

We should remain alive to the most common tricks these thugs use to dupe vulnerable drivers. These include motioning you to stop as though there’s some mechanical fault with your car, hitting your car from behind and striking as you pull over to inspect the damage, and feigning mechanical trouble with their own vehicle pretending to be in need of your help.

  1. Armed Robbery:

This is a hallmark of organized crime, evidence of which has already been seen in Mombasa where gangs have been wreaking havoc over the last couple of months. We know most of you cannot resist the coast over the holiday season, but perhaps a bit of caution would be wise.

Do a little homework before going on that trip to learn the crime trends in the area. For instance, locations that have been troublesome in Mombasa in the past include Kisauni, Nyali, Likoni and Old Town. It might not be advisable to walk alone at night in these areas. Try to blend in with the local crowd as opportunistic thugs often look to prey on foreigners. You could also ask your hotel information desk to recommend safer places to visit. On that note, if you have a fanny pack, definitely do not wear that outside. Do not dress flashy and leave any unnecessary valuables like your Kindle or tablet in the hotel room.

  1. Burglary/Theft:

You’re excited about this trip that you have been saving up for all year. Your young ones cannot wait to flood everyone’s Instagram timelines with vacation pictures and hashtags. Remember, you might as well be advertising that your house is now free to be broken into. In Naivasha for instance, gangs have been targeting and breaking into homes they perceive to be unoccupied.

Speak to your private security provider on beefing up your security protocols before leaving, both the office or your business and your home. Using technology that can be monitored and controlled remotely might help you sleep better while on holiday. For your home, ask a neighbour to make your house look “lived in.” They can park their car in your driveway or use your hanging lines even.

  1. Crime Targeting Children:

Crime targeting children also tends to spike over the holiday season, simply because they are seen as the softest of targets and they are not in school for eight hours every day. The most imminent of threats here are abduction and sexual violence. For their own safety, it’s advisable to know their whereabouts at all times.

Encourage your children to use the buddy system whenever out in public. Implore them not to be lured into vehicles or houses that they do not know, and drill into them that they should never accept food or drink from strangers. When out and about, teach them the concept of “safe strangers” like a security guard in uniform or a mom with kids. Most importantly, if they are in a situation that makes them uncomfortable, they should yell and get away.

  1. Mugging:

This primarily occurs towards the end and in the immediate aftermath of the holiday season. Most affected are urban areas like the Central Business District in Nairobi and Mombasa, and suburban areas like Karen in Nairobi which saw an influx of armed thugs on wheels particularly around the New Year holiday.

When in town, avoid parking in spots that are isolated and use ATMs that are in well-lit, public areas. Do not walk around with large amounts of cash on you if you can help it and try not to make yourself a target. However, should you be outnumbered or faced with armed opposition, do not resist. Material loss can always be recovered, life cannot.

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In addition to all this, sometimes it’s the little things that we have to watch out for. A number of safety-related incidents typically noted over this season are easily avoided. When decorating your Christmas tree, hang the ornaments at the top of the tree yourself and let your children put up the rest. This way, they do not have to overreach and risk falling over. Also be careful with Christmas cards, especially those with button batteries which children can easily end up swallowing.

The risk of fire is also heightened over this season. Remember that pretty as they might be, Christmas lights are just as susceptible to power surges and could end up lighting up more than just your living room. Be sure to put out any candles not in use or when going to bed, and keep them far from anything flammable like curtains.

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