Thursday, June 29, 2006

Break-in & Lessons Learned

From a recent Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) report of an incident in Namibia...

A US Government-supported Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) headquartered in Windhoek West was recently the site of an attempted burglary.

At approximately 1300 on June 25, an unknown number of would-be thieves forced open the front pedestrian gate of the NGO office, which is located in a converted residence. The perpetrator(s) tried to pry open several locked windows with a crowbar or similar object, breaking a glass pane in the process. At some point, the attempt to open the windows triggered the alarm system; the perpetrator(s) fled before the alarm response company arrived on scene.

Nothing was taken from the premises in this incident, and no one was injured.

The following "lessons learned," developed through a security survey conducted the following day, may be of interest to American companies and organizations in Namibia, especially those located in converted residential properties:

Use your alarm: The perpetrator(s)' decision to flee upon triggering the alarm is consistent with several previous residential and business break-ins where the sound of an alarm was sufficient to thwart the attempt. We encourage the installation and consistent use of an alarm system that incorporates motion sensors, door/window contacts, and panic buttons. Alarms should be monitored by a professional response company.

Test your Grillwork: Virtually all expatriate businesses, organizations, and residences feature some type grillwork on windows and "man-passable non-window openings." Some grill installations, however, are not sufficient to deter entry by smaller thieves (including children recruited for exactly this purpose) or to prevent reach-and-grab extraction of high-value items located near windows. Take a moment to test your grillwork: can you reach through and extract laptop computers, keyboards, etc. (especially by grasping and dragging power cords which run against walls just under windows)? Can a child pass through the grille? If so, you may need to consider welding additional metal strips to the existing grille to better protect your space.

Pedestrian Gates: With compound walls increasingly fortified with razor wire, electric fencing and other protective measures, intruders have shifted their attention to overcoming the relatively weak locks found on most pedestrian gates. Gates should ideally feature an "anti-tamper strip," a piece of metal running from top to bottom where the gate meets its frame and covering the gap between the frame and gate. The presence of an anti-tamper strip prevents a burglar from attacking the gate with a crowbar straight-on, forcing him/her to approach the gate from a tight angle, making it more difficult to gain leverage.

"Free Burglar Tools:" Many businesses and organizations located in former residential compounds take advantage of their outdoor space to store spare parts, building materials, and other items which could be of use to burglars attempting to gain access to the building itself. Examine your outdoor storage from an intruder's point of view: is there anything on site which would be useful in breaking a window, forcing open a door, etc.

Daytime Controls: Not all break-ins take place after hours. In 2005, criminals staged robberies of several occupied businesses in Windhoek, with violence resulting in at least two incidents. Don’t let your "street gate" be the sole barrier between you and would-be intruders; consider keeping the front door (or grille gate) of the building itself closed and locked throughout the business day. Minimize the number of entrances/exits used by staff and visitors on a regular basis in order to better monitor the flow of people and equipment in and out of your space. Consider implementing a visitors' register to obtain basic personal data and contact information on visitors to your facilities.

Cost-Free Protection: Security at many facilities like the one described above can be enhanced by implementing some virtually cost-free measures. Ensure blinds/curtains are closed on all windows at the end of the day—make the burglars guess which rooms contain the items they are looking for. Lock internal doors, especially for ground-level rooms with windows; doing so may prevent a successful intruder from breaching more than one room. Lock vehicle keys, alarm control buttons, cash, and other small high-value items in a safe or similar secure storage container on the premises.


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