Thursday, March 15, 2012

Al Reef Burglaries

Below is a story from The National today. This is where I live. Underneath are my comments.

Al Reef residents alarmed by burglaries

ABU DHABI // When ZA's pet birds started squawking in the middle of the night last week, she and her husband did not think anything of it.

It was not until the next morning that the Al Reef Villas resident noticed deep scratch marks on the outside of her back patio door and realised someone had tried to break in.

On ZA's street alone, several residents have reported attempted break-ins in the past several weeks. In the Mediterranean Village, where the Canadian lives with her husband and three children, the houses back on to an expanse of sand near Abu Dhabi International Airport.
"It's easy access," she said. "It is not being monitored, and there are no lights in the back. Our backyard is totally dark."
Residents at Al Reef, one of the capital's largest gated communities, estimate that they have been the victims of more than a dozen attempted break-ins in the last month alone. ZA has since barricaded her sliding door with a stick to keep it from being slid open from the outside.
Other residents have not been so lucky. One reported that a gold watch and US$1,000 (Dh3,673) was taken.
Last Thursday, JL, a resident in Arabian Village, woke up early. The mother of one had just poured herself a glass of water when she was startled by a noise downstairs. The burglar had made it into her house but was scared off when she turned on the light. Nothing was taken.
"I definitely don't feel comfortable," she said. "I've been leaving the garden lights on all night now, and I put a stick in the door."
The thieves always try to come in through the sliding patio back door. Police suspect a screwdriver was being used to prise open the door.
The incidents began in Mediterranean Village but have spread to Arabian Village.
Sometimes a thief will strike in the middle of the night; others say they have been targeted in the middle of the afternoon.
"What's really a mystery to me is why my house was targeted," said JL, a Briton. "Most of the previous homes were backing on to the airport, but I'm surrounded by houses, at least two on each side, and they are all occupied."
Manazel Real Estate, the community's developer, has increased patrols in "weak areas" and is working with the police and CID officers to provide additional security.
Saeed Al Jabri, the general manager of Manazel Specialists, said security cameras would be installed within 10 days, but only in public areas.
"We don't want to violate people's privacy," Mr Al Jabri said.
"This is a major priority for us, but we want to keep people safe and ensure they still have their privacy."
Mr Al Jabri also said the company was considering installing electronic checkpoints that would allow guards to use a key card to check in at specific sites, to ensure patrols were hitting the must-see areas.
Another resident, NR, said she planned to install a motion sensor in her backyard after she found scratch marks on her door about three weeks ago.
"I'm not sure how cameras would work, because the burglars are trying to get entry from the backside," the German woman said. "But maybe it would be enough to give them a fright and keep them away."
JL said that open alleyways and other points of entry should be blocked. ZA said more night-time patrols would make her feel safer.
Mr Al Jabri said fences would be installed, and Manazel has asked the airport to improve its security along the periphery. The community's 32 guards have also been given golf carts for patrolling.
Guards have told residents to put broomsticks in the runners or locks on their patio doors and to report attempted break-ins to the police. Residents are also encouraged to approach Manazel with their suggestions.
Mr Al Jabri said the police are investigating the attempted break-ins, but so far, no suspects have been caught.

OK, so here's my thoughts on this...

It seems a lot of people when they move here, from wherever they come from, think they can kind of outsource responsibility for many things to others; maids, drivers, nannies, cleaners and... security. We too have taken advantage of the low cost of some of these services out here. The problem lies in the attitude taken towards it. Everything seems to become someone else's fault if things go wrong. When children get hurt at home, it's the maid's fault. If a car gets a parking ticket, it's the driver's fault and if my house get burgled, it's Security's fault.

In a way, I understand, when you are paying for a service and in some way the provider is negligent, then some blame should be attached, but I can't stand the attitude some people have towards this. So, this brings me to Al Reef security. Some people seem to think that it is the responsibility of the Al Reef property development company to prevent them from being burgled. Many of the people with this belief come from places with crime rates way higher than here, yet I am sure if they tried to blame their council, or their housing association, they wouldn't get very far. Take some PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and do something for yourself to protect your home.

We rent our villa at Al Reef and as such I don't pay any service fees to the developers, I'm not sure if the owner does and if he does, I'm not sure what it provides in terms of security. What we do have are manned barriers at two entrances to our community and security guards who walk around day and night. Now, it has to be said that it would not be too difficult for anyone to enter (depending on what nationality you are - easier if you haver a white face - seriously), so frankly it doesn't serve much purpose. I think most of the problems at Al Reef have been around the edges of the development where the gardens back onto open waste ground. There it would be relatively easy for someone to jump over a wall and into someone's garden. This would be true of many other people's property at home I am sure - ours included.

Our villa backs onto a community area and as such I would say is less vulnerable, however we have taken some steps to provide an increased level of security. As one of the residents in the article described, we too have a pole which traps the sliding patio door to provide some extra protection....

I also have an IP Camera trained on the patio door at night recording any movement. We are pretty sure that if anyone did come in, Milo would sense this and he pretty much barks at anything! 

I think the whole thing has been blown up out of proportion honestly. I understand there have been about 20 attempts to gain entry, but only one has ever succeeded. There is a bit more Al Reef can do to provide some extra security and it seems they are taking steps to do that, which is good. But people, really, please do something for yourself and stop blaming everyone else! We do not live in some perfect utopia where bad things never happen, even here, so just take some sensible precautions.

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