Scoping out potential estates

SMART Estate Security 2023 Security Services & Risk Management


Andre Mundell.

How do criminals, focusing on the lucrative estate market, ‘scope’ their potential targets? There are many answers to this question, and we also need to look at what the criminal looks like, whether the estate has any form of security, and where the criminals come from.

We first must understand what a criminal perceives while looking at an estate. Their viewpoint is quite different from ours.

When we see an estate, we believe we are secure, live in a ‘guarded’ neighbourhood, and no longer need to be concerned about crime. This causes us to be unaware of our surroundings and careless about security, which plays right into the hands of criminals.

When a criminal views a 200-house estate, they see a minimum of 200 vehicles, 400 cell phones, 400 computers, and 200 flat screen TVs (assuming each home possesses only one). Additionally, they may come across approximately 600 bank cards, pieces of jewellery, cash, tablets, and numerous other valuable items.

Unsurprisingly, a criminal referred to residential estates as a ‘picnic basket’. They simply need to get inside the estate; then they can pick and choose to take anything they want. This is why criminals are motivated to gain access to estates.

Your own worst enemy

To exacerbate the situation, thieves know that the estate’s residents are careless. They neglect to lock their vehicles and garages. Additionally, they often leave windows open and do not consistently adhere to security protocols, among other negligent behaviours.

It is important to consider that criminals may be inside and outside the estate, which affects their scoping strategies.

When discussing potential targets, it is essential to consider that crime is primarily driven by opportunity, as demonstrated by the crime triangle. During the scoping process, one actively seeks out various opportunities. The scoping process involves identifying potential security gaps and creating opportunities for criminals to enter the estate at the invitation of a resident.

Criminals from outside typically target the main gate. According to the sources, the main gate serves as the radio station for the estate. Multiple sources have consistently reported the same information. “I am waiting near the main entrance, pretending to wait for someone, but my actual intention is to eavesdrop on the conversations happening at the gate.”

Starting with the security guards, the idea is to discover one who is unhappy. Develop a friendly relationship with the security guard. They frequently engage in long-term strategies and demonstrate patience. They will establish a friendly relationship with a guard without discussing security or the estate and instead show genuine interest in the individual. Criminals also understand the value of information. Like any other person, the guard will start talking about their job.

The buddy system

According to some sources, some guards can substitute a buddy to serve their night shift guard or cover a portion of the shift. I was informed that the lack of interest in the security guard by the residents in the estates, particularly those without their own security managers, makes it possible for anyone to substitute for the security guard.

Informants make the following statement. “The concept of residential estates may not be the most brilliant. Using a single gate for all purposes is not wise, especially during nighttime. All individuals, including police, security, online deliveries and ambulances, enter and exit through this gate. While this arrangement may be convenient for law-abiding citizens, it presents an opportunity for criminals who only need to monitor one gate instead of multiple entrances.”

Gaining access to an estate is usually the most straightforward step. Criminals prioritise the escape route as their primary concern and are determined to avoid being apprehended. Gaining access is relatively straightforward, especially considering that many estates lack access control measures and are complacent about security. Extortion can also be used to gain access and instil fear to gain entry. Additionally, the absence of enough guards can make it easier to gain access. However, the possibility of escape is what makes them contemplate taking the job.

Despite the presence of an electric fence, certain groups of criminals can still leap over it or cut the fence effortlessly. Based on my sources, anyone can test an electric fence, but it is worth noting that many of these fences may not be functional. If you trip an electric fence using a wire and rope, you may be surprised that the security response is directed to the wrong location. The trigger information is incorrect, even if the fence has electricity.

Motivations and tactics differ

I have been informed that most of these offenders are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. The primary objective of these offenders is to engage in housebreaking or steal items that are easily accessible, including from unlocked vehicles. Not all criminals scope their next victim or target property. Some individuals are opportunists, often influenced by alcohol or drugs.

Hardcore criminals may attempt to breach the gate and incapacitate the guards. The mindset of this type of criminal is unique. According to informers, this type of crime is random but does occur. When it does happen, you will find news coverage in the newspaper. I was reminded that some of the most violent crimes in the estate have been committed by individuals who were either family members or friends of the victim.

The process of scoping out planned crimes, such as house robberies, hijackings, and burglaries, does not always start at the intended location. The starting point for this activity can be any of several locations, including the shopping centre, your workplace, or the bank. In some instances, criminals may focus on targeting specific individuals rather than the entire estate.

The more hardened and ruthless criminals are unlikely to take the time to assess a property for vulnerabilities or potential opportunities. They will hold a 9 mm against the security guard’s head and instruct him to either open the desired location or take them there. The guards are most vulnerable from midnight to early morning.

Do not be deceived into thinking that crime only occurs from external sources. Criminals can also be found in estates. This type of criminal currently has access to the estate, and their main concern is avoiding detection.

They are scoping for unlocked doors, open windows, and unlocked cars or garages. Residents who travel on vacation are included in the scope. Mobile phones, wallets, handbags, laptops, tablets, and even flat-screen TVs are susceptible to being targeted.

Spot the Springboks

Usually, these types of offenders live with relatives or friends of the parents who are renting a house on the estate. The term ‘Springboks’ is a nickname used to refer to a specific group of individuals between the ages of 17 and 32 who are involved in criminal activities.

Being part of the estate makes it simple to look for new possibilities. They will assist the neighbourhood, walk their dogs, get to know the estate’s residents, and generally be busy around the estate. This is when they notice the chances and return later when the unwary victims are not at home or sleeping.

In essence, regardless of whether the criminals originate from within or outside a given system, or whether they are experienced or opportunistic, they all share a common trait; the ability to identify vulnerabilities, valuable targets, and potential opportunities.

At the end of the day, however, a big part of estate crime is not about scoping, only bad security, residents’ complacency, laxness, and complete obliviousness.


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